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Tears, budget battles and mascots: the tricky path to Tokyo 2020

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From tears of joy when Tokyo was selected to a plagiarism scandal and budget battles, the path towards the 2020 Olympics has not always been smooth.

[TOKYO] From tears of joy when Tokyo was selected to a plagiarism scandal and budget battles, the path towards the 2020 Olympics has not always been smooth.

With the Pyeongchang Olympics closed and the torch passing to Tokyo, organisers stress that the games are now back on track and construction on schedule.

Here are five key moments in Tokyo's rocky Olympic road.

TEARS OF JOY

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TV news presenters broke down in tears and thousands of people erupted in screams of delight when the IOC awarded the games to Tokyo in September 2013.

With emotions running high, the thoughts of many Japanese turned to the thousands of victims of a devastating earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, with the Olympics eyed as a golden opportunity to rebuild.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowed Tokyo would be a "safe pair of hands", with a reputation for efficiency and competence.

STADIUM SHOCK

Unfortunately, that reputation for efficiency quickly went out of the window as Mr Abe was forced to tear up blueprints for the proposed national stadium as costs ballooned out of control.

"I have decided we must go back to the drawing board," a red-faced Mr Abe said in July 2015, amid public anger over its US$2 billion price tag - which would have made it the world's most expensive stadium.

The decision also affected the 2019 Rugby World Cup, which was due to host the final in the stadium. That match will now be played in Yokohama, south of Tokyo.

The stadium was designed by Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid, who died in 2016.

LOGO LARCENY

More embarrassment followed in September 2015 as organisers had to ditch the logo for the Games amid accusations of plagiarism and questions about the designer's credibility.

Belgian designer Olivier Debie said the original design was swiped from his logo for a theatre in Liege, western Belgium and vowed to take the issue to court.

As the scandal mounted, officials were forced to withdraw the logo, saying it "no longer has public support". In April 2016, Tokyo 2020 unveiled a new "snake-eye" logo with roots in feudal Japan.

However, even this event did not run smoothly as the winning design was apparently leaked to the local media well ahead of the official announcement.

VENUE RELIEF

After the setbacks came a welcome piece of positive news in November 2017 as Tokyo unveiled its first new permanent venue.

The Musashino Forest Sport Plaza, which will host badminton and modern pentathlon fencing, was the first of eight new permanent venues to be completed.

The 10,000-seat venue cost an estimated US$300 million and will also host wheelchair basketball at the 2020 Paralympics.

It also contains a swimming pool, gym and fitness studios available for use by the general public and is part-powered by solar energy.

MASCOT MADNESS

In the wake of the logo disaster, there was a palpable sense of relief after the smooth rollout of two futuristic mascots for the Olympics and Paralympics - chosen this time by schoolchildren across the country.

The Olympic mascot, which has yet to be named, is a blue-checked, doe-eyed character with pointy ears and useful "special powers" that enable it "to move anywhere instantaneously".

Its Paralympic counterpart sports pink checks derived from Japan's famous cherry blossoms and is "usually calm, however, it gets very powerful when needed".

Their unveiling was massive news in mascot-mad Japan, and Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said the selection would build "momentum" and "excitement" towards the opening ceremony.

AFP