Veteran politician Endo named Japan Olympics minister

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan appointed its first Olympics minister on Thursday, naming a veteran politician to a cabinet post created last month to guide the country through preparations for the 2020 Summer Games -- and a host of thorny issues.

Though Tokyo won the games largely due to its organisational prowess, the last year has seen bid promises rolled back, construction costs soar and arguments escalate between the city and national governments over funding for the new main stadium.

Taking up the post is 65-year-old Toshiaki Endo, a lawmaker of 22 years standing, who has long worked on sports policies, been a senior vice minister in the Education Ministry and lists rugby as his main hobby.

“The prime minister told me to keep in close contact with all the appropriate cabinet ministers, as well as the Tokyo government, and work hard,” Endo told reporters after meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Endo added that he hoped to make the Games both a national festival for all the people of Japan and a chance for the country to display its technology to the world.

One of Endo’s first tasks will be a decision on the final design for the new National Stadium, the centrepiece of the opening and closing ceremonies.

The soaring costs for the original design by Zaha Hadid have prompted several downsizing proposals, including delaying the installation of a retractable roof until after the Games and making a number of seats temporary, which media reports suggest are both gaining support.

In May, Tokyo governor Yoichi Masuzoe lashed out at being asked to foot $400 million of the stadium costs without further details of plans and how the money will be spent, calling the expense “ridiculous”.

Reporting by Elaine Lies and Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by John O’Brien