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Friday, July 15, 2011
A long shot at what cost?
Not a man to let last summer's costly failure to land the 2016 Summer Olympics deter him, Gov. Shintaro Ishihara announced on July 5 at a reconstruction seminar that Tokyo is ready to host the 2020 Games "at any cost." Mr. Ishihara claims that hosting the games would contribute to Japan's recovery from the March 11 disasters and showcase it before the world.
While all means of accelerating the rebuilding of the disaster-struck region should be pursued with vigor, not only do Tokyo's chances of winning the bid appear to be slim, but also it's questionable whether hosting the 2020 Games in Tokyo would accomplish this objective.
If Tokyo goes ahead with its bid it will face a steep and expensive uphill battle. It may be true, as some observers claim, that Japan's desire to host the games to showcase its recovery from 3/11 would garner empathy from many members of the International Olympic Committee.
Such sentiment, however, would likely be outweighed by the selection of Pyeongchang, South Korea, to host the 2018 Winter Games, as the IOC generally refrains from holding consecutive games in the same region.
Following Pyeongchang's selection, some IOC members reportedly stated that Japan should consider bidding for the 2024 or 2028 games instead. Given that Tokyo's failed bid for the 2016 games cost the capital's taxpayers ¥20 billion, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government should not simply plow ahead while claiming — as Gov. Ishihara recently did — that the decision to hold the 2018 Olympics in South Korea "has nothing to do with us." It should carefully weigh the odds — and public sentiment — before making a final decision.
It's also debatable whether hosting the games in Japan's capital would have a significantly beneficial impact on reconstruction efforts in the devastated areas of Tohoku.
The Japan Olympic Committee has stated that events such as soccer could be held in Fukushima, Miyagi and Iwate prefectures — but would the funds generated by such events outweigh the costs of preparing for them, and would the construction of sports facilities be the most effective way to advance the region's recovery?
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government says that it has ¥400 billion in a reserve fund that can be used for Olympics-related purposes. It should keep in mind that as Tokyo taxpayers ultimately foot the bill for this fund, it should be used in a manner that brings them the greatest benefit.
During its 2016 Olympic bid, the metropolitan government stated that hosting the Olympics would have an economic ripple effect of ¥1.56 trillion for Tokyo and ¥2.83 trillion for the nation as a whole. It should publish data that can support this claim and convince the public that it would be better to spend ¥400 billion on an Olympiad rather than use it to fund projects that would directly improve Tokyo residents' quality of life, such as improving medical services — which have been slashed by the Ishihara administration — building more day-care centers and expanding the use of green energy.