TOKYO: When an International Olympic Committee member asked Prime Minister Shinzo Abe why he thought the crippled nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture has no effect on Tokyo, the atmosphere became tense at a venue of the IOC general assembly in Buenos Aires.
Tokyo made the final presentation there on Saturday, but media from many nations had reported that radioactive water leakage from Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant was a mounting concern for IOC members.
When Abe began explaining in Japanese, interpreter Mariko Nagai, 70, who was sitting in a booth at the back of the seats, told herself: “Interpret in a tone just as the prime minister puts it.”
Abe said in a clear, strong voice that he is taking responsibility by implementing programs for a fundamental solution. His strong words were delivered to IOC members in English through Nagai’s interpretation.
Nagai is an interpreter for the Tokyo bid committee. When Tokyo competed for the 2016 Olympic Games, Nagai worked with then Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara. She has visited more than 50 places in Japan and abroad for bidding activities since around 2007. Having also been involved in the 1998 Nagano Olympics from before its start, she has a lot of experience with Olympic-related activities.
Many people put strong faith in her, saying Nagai interprets remarks by understanding context.
Nagai said she pays attention to every word she chooses, aiming to give a positive impression at such occasions as a press conference. For example, she prefers to use “a challenge” or “a point to be improved” instead of “weak points.”
“I love the Olympics. I never change the words of a speaker when I interpret, but I guess my wish that Tokyo be chosen as the host city naturally comes out in my interpretation,” she said.
Her strong feelings for the Olympics date back to a vivid memory half a century ago.
It was the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. When planes flying in formation drew the five-ring emblem in the blue sky at the opening ceremony, Nagai was at the National Stadium in Tokyo, wearing a white jacket with an emblem of a rising sun. VIPs from around the world passed by in front of her eyes.
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