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Sunday, Feb. 4, 2001

Osaka prepares for visit from IOC

Rude locals, crowded city, sticky summer may hurt Olympic bid


Staff writer

OSAKA -- In a few weeks, International Olympic Committee officials will visit Osaka to assess the city's 2008 Olympic Games bid.

A small team of IOC experts in areas ranging from security to the environment will tour local sports facilities, meet with city and business officials and attend a reception on Feb. 28 with dignitaries, who may include Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori.

The IOC is currently reviewing the official Osaka Olympic File in preparation for their visit. The 600-page file is the final blueprint of how the city would host the 2008 Olympics if chosen by the IOC in July. It covers the technical aspects of the bid in detail but leaves questions about its logistic and environmental feasibility.

The file is the final version of plans that were first proposed in 1997, when Osaka was chosen over Yokohama as the Japan Olympic Committee bid city for the 2008 Games. The plan has seen many amendments and controversies since the first draft.

The events, for example, were initially to be held mainly on two man-made islands in Osaka harbor, Yumeshima and Maishima -- away from the busy commercial centers of Umeda in northern Osaka and Shinsaibashi in the south.

Following a request by international soccer officials, however, and controversy over where to hold the rowing events, the final plan envisages soccer matches in Hiroshima, Kyoto, Yokohama and Saitama Prefecture, and boating events on Lake Biwa.

The main stadium, which has yet to be built but would hold the opening and closing ceremonies as well as many of the track and field events, will be located on Maishima. A media center will be built on neighboring Yumeshima.

While Osaka insists restricting the events to a few areas in the city will benefit athletes, IOC officials and the international media, the huge influx of visitors to an already-crowded city is likely to test the tempers of local residents, who are often criticized for their impatience and rudeness when compared with Kobe and Kyoto.

Olympic events would take place at 18 different locations within Osaka. A daily average of 300,000 people currently use the already-jammed subway system, and the city's population jumps from 2.6 million to 3.8 million during the day as workers commute from outlying regions.

When an estimated daily average of 146,000 Olympic visitors are added to this, it becomes clear that Osaka residents will face much larger crowds in streets and subway stations.

Past large-scale events such as the 1995 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum conference included a poster campaign urging Osaka residents to be polite to visiting foreigners, a campaign that would probably be repeated and expanded in the event of a successful bid.

And the heat may further fray tempers as the Games will take place in the middle of summer. When Osaka released its first Olympic proposal in 1997, it emphasized that the average daily temperature over a 30-year period in late July and early August was 28.6 degrees. What the city failed to mention, however, was that the average was taken over a 24-hour period, not just during the daytime.

But steamy figures released in the latest Osaka Olympic file may put the city's bid to the flames. Data submitted for temperature and humidity conditions over the past 10 years, as opposed to 30, show the average temperature between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. at 30 degrees, with humidity averaging just over 60 percent in the same period.

The city's budget for the 2008 Olympics has also ballooned since the first proposal. At that time, the cost to stage the Games was estimated at 170 billion yen, with about 25 percent of revenues coming from the sale of broadcasting rights to the United States and 13 percent from European broadcasting rights.

About 18 percent of the revenues was originally supposed to come from companies that signed on as Olympic sponsors. Ticket sales were estimated at 20 billion yen, or about 12 percent of total revenues.

The finalized plan shows an estimated cost of nearly 200 billion yen, with only 20 percent of revenues coming from U.S. broadcasting rights and 10 percent from European broadcasting rights. Officially sanctioned sponsors are now expected to provide about 52 billion yen, or 26 percent of total revenues.



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The Japan Times

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