(ATR) Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics will bring a "new age" to Japan.
Abe used Tokyo 2020 as the frame for his annual policy speech to the opening of parliament, referencing the sport events more than a dozen times.
"This will bring all the people of Japan together to walk forward together into a new age," he said about the Olympics and Paralympics.
He began his speech invoking memories of the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo. Those Games are viewed as an important step in Japan’s recovery from World War II.
"As the entire world watched, the final runner entered the National Stadium, Olympic torch in hand," Abe said.
"It was a 19-year-old youth from Hiroshima, born on the day the atomic bomb fell, and his dynamic running showed that our nation had fully recovered from being flattened by bombings and, full of confidence and pride, proclaimed to the world Japan was embarking on an era of rapid growth," Abe told the parliament.
Abe says the Olympic year shows Japan in recovery from the nuclear disaster at the power plants in Fukushima following the 2011 earthquake. He touted the infrastructure repair and other improvements to theregion which will be the starting point of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic torch relay in March.
"This place, which was the center of operations for responding to Fukushima, is now becoming a soccer mecca for our nation, overflowing with childrens' smiling faces," Abe said.
While billions have been spent in recovery, repairs from the disaster will still take years longer.
In a bow towards improving relations with South Korea ahead of the Olympics, Abe called the nation Japan’s "most important neighbor with which Japan shares basic values and strategic interests." In the past Abe has described South Korea only as "an important neighbor".
It’s the latest sign of a reduction in tension between the two countries. Last month Abe and South Korean President Jae In Moon met to begin anew working out differences.
Last week Moon said he hoped the 2020 Olympics would be a catalyst for stronger relations with Japan.
Moon said South Korea will cooperate with Japan for a successful Olympics.
Moon credits the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang for helping to improve relations with North Korea. Pyeongchang was named this month as the host of the 2024 Winter Youth Olympic Games. Moon is also overseeing talks on whether North Korea and South Korea can stage a joint bid for the 2032 Summer Games.
Reported by Ed Hula.