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American track great Lewis backs Tokyo's 2020 bid

Carl Lewis (C), nine-time U.S. Olympic gold medalist and Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), arrives at
Carl Lewis (C), nine-time U.S. Olympic gold medalist and Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), arrives at

(Reuters) - Multiple Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis has backed Tokyo's bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games, hailing the Japanese city's strong pedigree for organizing big sporting events.

Tokyo is competing with Istanbul and Madrid to host the Olympics for a second time after becoming the first Asian city to host the multi-sport event in 1964.

Lewis, the nine-time Olympic champion, visited Japan's National Stadium on Monday, a venue where he set two world records in the 1991 world athletics championships and narrowly lost arguably the greatest long jump final to compatriot Mike Powell.

"I have obviously tremendous memories of that and that was without question my best track meet ever," Lewis told Reuters Television on the track.

"But for me it was more fitting because Japan had been the one place I've been to the most in my career, they've been the most supportive in my career outside the United States.

"I will be at the 2020 Games wherever it is, and I hope it's here."

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) will decide on the hosts at a meeting in Argentina in September with Tokyo's bid strengthened by having the majority of the proposed venues already built.

The 80,000 capacity national stadium, though, will undergo a $1 billion space-age makeover and be completed in time to host the 2019 rugby World Cup with the famed sprinter looking forward to seeing the results.

"Japan has always been a high-tech community and I think it would be a showcase for stadium, probably more high-tech than any stadium that's ever been made, and I think it will be a great place to be," the 51-year-old said.

Having lost out to Rio de Janeiro in the 2016 bid, Japanese media have been wary to jump on early praise received this month by IOC officials who said they were "hugely impressed" by the Tokyo bid.

Lewis, though, offered to reassure those connected with the Japanese bid that they had a strong offer and did not need to make drastic changes to their proposals.

"I don't think you have to recreate the wheel here; everyone knows they can do a tremendous job," said the 1984 and 1988 Olympic 100 meter champion.

"Build on the legacy that you've shown in the past, whether it's the world championships or the Olympics in the past or other events.

"Just continue to stay on that legacy that you've shown how great you are and just update it to the times."

(Writing by Patrick Johnston in Singapore; editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

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