Where EAST meets the Northwest
OLYMPIC COUNTDOWN. Tokyo 2020 Olympic medals are unveiled during the One Year
to Go Olympic ceremony in Tokyo. Gold, silver, and bronze Olympic medals
received their first public viewing as Tokyo organizers marked one year until
the games open. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)
From The Asian Reporter, V29, #15 (August 5, 2019), page 10.
Year to go to Tokyo Games, with costs, ticket demand rising
By Stephen Wade
AP Sports Writer
TOKYO — The countdown for the Tokyo Olympics hit 365 days last month.
To mark the year-to-go mark, the gold, silver, and bronze Olympic medals were
unveiled as part of daylong ceremonies around the Japanese capital.
Tokyo’s 1964 Olympics showcased bullet trains, futuristic designs, and a new
expressway, underlining Japan’s recovery following World War II. Those games
were the first seen worldwide by early satellites, sending the Olympics into a
Japan’s capital has less to prove this time when the games open July 24,
2020. Many of the venues are completed, Tokyo has abundant infrastructure, and
Japan is a byword for know-how. There are, however, other matters: Expected heat
(though this summer has been wet and mild), traffic and subway congestion,
costs, earthquake preparedness, and ticket scarcity.
Ticket demand by Japan residents alone is reported to be at least 10 times
the supply. Abroad, prices are sure to soar on secondary ticket markets.
Organizers have shattered records for local sponsorship revenue, which has
passed $3 billion — about three times more than any previous Olympics. The main
driver has been Japan’s giant advertising and marketing company Dentsu Inc., the
exclusive marketing agency for Tokyo.
"The fact that the talk is so much about not being able to get tickets,"
Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike said, "is a symbol, a representation of the
enthusiasm and expectations that a lot of people have toward the games."
Tokyo doesn’t need the Olympics to build infrastructure. It has some of the
world’s best. Pressed to justify spending billions on the games, Koike described
the Olympics and Paralympics as an "accelerator" to get more things done, even
if evidence overwhelmingly shows that working on Olympic deadlines drives up
Sports economist Robert Baade, who teaches at Lake Forest College outside
Chicago and has researched the Olympics, says the games are "about marketing and
branding. The most important part from a commercial standpoint is the opening
and closing ceremony. Sport is the subtext."
Tokyo is building eight venues. The other 35 are defined as "temporary" or
older buildings that are being reused, which organizers say has saved billions.
But even existing venues need renovation. The centerpiece is the $1.25 billion
National Stadium, which will open at the end of the year, and the Olympic
Village for more than 10,000 athletes on the edge of Tokyo Bay.
Tokyo will showcase four new sports — karate, skateboarding, sports climbing,
surfing. A fifth — baseball and softball — is returning after being dropped
following the 2008 Olympics.
Exact costs — what are and are not Olympic expenses — are difficult to sort
out. But Tokyo is spending about $20 billion to get ready, 70% of which is
International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach has repeatedly
called Tokyo’s preparations "the best" in history. But there have been glitches
and links to corruption.
A group of anti-Olympic activists, many from outside Japan, has held small
protests and other events under the Japanese title "Hangorin no Kai" —
roughly No Olympics. They question Olympic spending and have raised local
housing and environmental issues.
Tsunekazu Takeda, the head of the Japanese Olympic Committee, was forced to
resign this year when he was implicated in a vote-buying scheme to land the
games. He has denied wrongdoing, but acknowledged he signed off on about $2
million that French investigators allege went to buy votes of some IOC members.
The 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics are implicated in the same kind of
Tokyo organizers were also forced to redesign the logo when the original
draft faced charges of plagiarism, and an international labor union has alleged
work-safety violations at Olympic venues, largely regarding migrant labor.
A futuristic design for the new stadium by the late British architect Zaha
Hadid was scrapped when costs soared to $2 billion. Japanese architect Kengo
Kuma was chosen instead with a design focused on wood lattice and greenery that
will be finished by the end of the year.
Baade says the games have reached an "inflection point," with cities
realizing short-term benefits are scant and long-term payoffs unclear.
"There are fewer cities and nations willing to compete in this international
auction of the games," he said. "And, in absence of this, the IOC" is not going
to be able to wring the kind of concessions from potential host cities that they
Read the current issue of The Asian Reporter in its entirety!
Go to <www.asianreporter.com/completepaper.htm>!