TOKYO (AFP) — Apart from its economic might, Tokyo is counting on its culinary finesse to woo International Olympic Committee specialists scrutinising its bid to host the Summer Games in 2016.
The 13 members of an IOC commission, evaluating 2016 bids by Chicago, Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro and Madrid, were treated to Italian-style cuisine at Ristorante Aso during their on-site inspection, bid committee officials said Saturday.
Aso is one of 173 restaurants in Tokyo which were awarded a total of 227 stars by the French culinary guide Michelin for this year as the Japanese capital remained the most starred city in the world.
"The members of the evaluation commission praised the food with such words as fantastic and beautiful and took a picture of each dish," said Hidetoshi Maki, deputy head of the Tokyo bid committee.
"It was not only tasty but also good to look at. I believe they understand we have good cuisine to serve."
The IOC inspectors visited the one-starred restaurant in the upscale residential area of Daikanyama on Friday during their tour of planned venues for the 2016 Games.
The eatery was recommended by Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara, who has cited choice international restaurants, safe neighbourhoods and tolerance of values and cultures as selling points for the city.
The lunch, usually priced up to 16,000 yen (160 dollars) a head, featured a plate of charcoal-grilled beef or steamed tilefish.
"When you open a shellfish risotto (rice), you find it is garnished with salmon roe. It was a kind of 'tricky' as Governor Ishihara has described the restaurant's cuisine," Maki said.
The IOC inspectors also attended an official dinner hosted by Prime Minister Taro Aso at the neo-baroque Akasaka Palace guest house.
They were joined by 28 Japanese guests including three Olympic medallists -- two-time double breaststroke champion Kosuke Kitajima, 2000 Olympic judo silver medallist Kyoko Narazaki and Senator Seiko Hashimoto, who won the 1,500-metre speed skating bronze in 1992.
The commission has already visited Chicago and will travel on to Rio and Madrid in the coming weeks. It will draw up a report one month before some 100 IOC members choose the 2016 host city on October 2.
Tokyo's bidders explained its financial health to the IOC evaluation commission earlier in the day.
"Governor Ishihara insisted that Japan is number two in the world's economic rankings. If Tokyo is a country, it is number 15 in the world," said Toshiaki Hosaka, director of operation planning at the bid committee.
He said Tokyo has set aside 3.7 billion dollars as a fund for the construction and maintenance of city-owned Games venues and infrastracture and won financial guarantees from the central government for cost overruns.
Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara (C) poses for a photo with members of IOC's evaluation commission for the 2016 Olympics