Naoki Inose, governor of Japanese capital Tokyo and head for the city’s bid to host the 2020 summer Olympics, apologized to the whole Muslim world on Tuesday after making comments about Turkey capital city Istanbul and its Islamic population in an article published on Friday. The negative comments were seen as a slight to Istanbul, also bidding to host the summer sports spectacle in 2020 and in so doing become the first predominantly Muslim city to host the Games. Inose had been quoted as saying that Islamic countries have nothing in common but Allah and are always “fighting with each other”.
Inose now finds himself forced into the apology after the New York Times published the story with his comments made through an interpreter. “Islamic countries, the only thing they have in common is Allah and they are fighting with each other, and they have classes,” the governor was quoted as saying. Inose initially defended his remarks after arriving from New York, saying the article did not reflect his true opinions. “The story made it seem as if Tokyo was criticizing the other bid cities, but my intention was not delivered correctly,” the politician expressed on his official Facebook page. “I had no intention of criticizing the other candidate cities at all,” Inose said. “It was extremely regrettable that such an article whose context differs from that of the interview was published.”
On Tuesday though, the governor faced television cameras and delivered a full-on apology. “There were remarks that can lead to misunderstandings among Islamic people,” he said. “So now I clearly apologize. If there are remarks that can be misunderstood, it is the inadequacy of my expression. I said (people) are fighting in some Islamic countries, but I think it was inappropriate. I want to correct it,” Inose concluded. Tokyo’s Olympic bid committee has already moved to minimize at the very least the impact of the error, as some have feared that the Tokyo Olympic bid might have been fatally hampered by Inose’s mistake. Tokyo 2020 officially said they had been taken by surprise by the article. “Tokyo 2020 fully respects and adheres to the IOC guidelines for the candidate cities. We have the utmost respect for all candidate cities and have always taken pride in bidding in a spirit based on the Olympic values of excellence, respect and friendship,” it said.
The timing of the gaffe may prove awkward as well for Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is traveling as of the moment. He is currently in Moscow for diplomatic and trade talks and will soon travel to the Middle East, swinging by Turkey on an official visit. Abe is looking to meet with the Turkish head-of-state in Ankara on Friday, and there is speculation that a Japanese-French group is nearing an agreement with the country to start a multi-billion dollar project to build Turkey’s first nuclear power plant.