Amid hot days, bickering raises heat on Tokyo 2020 Olympics plan

By Chen Yang Source:Global Times Published: 2018/7/29 18:33:39

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Tokyo is suffering a scorching summer. According to reports, the observation station in the Ome city of Tokyo recorded a sizzling 40.8 Celsius, the first time the mercury went above 40 degrees. This month, at least 52 people have died of heat stroke in Tokyo. With the Tokyo Olympic Games just two years away, Japanese are worried about the sweltering summer as the Games take place around the same time of the year.

After Japan was selected the host of the 2020 Olympics, there has been concern about whether the Olympic Games will be held on schedule. Owing to labor shortage, the pace of construction of some stadiums is slow. The Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games proposed 37 venues in its plan, including 15 existing and 22 to be built. Till now, the main venues, such as the New National Stadium, will not be completed until the end of 2019 and thereafter equipment installation will take more time. It's uncertain whether work can be finished before the Olympics.

Meanwhile, the wrangling between the Tokyo administration, the Tokyo Organizing Committee and the Japanese government has slowed down preparations. For instance, the Japanese government and the Tokyo Organizing Committee both hold that the Tokyo administration should shoulder a larger share of the budget. Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike and Yoshiro Mori, head of the Tokyo Organizing Committee, have been crossing each other's paths. The intense heat is adding to the problems besetting the Games.

The heat wave is not strange to the Japanese people. When hosting the Olympic Games in 1964 for the first time, Tokyo held the opening ceremony in cooler October to avoid the hot summer. But in 2020, the Games will be held from July 24 to August 9, which may pose a challenge to not only the athletes, but also the spectators. After all, the average temperatures of cities that hosted the last three Olympic Games - Beijing, London and Rio de Janeiro - are lower than that of Tokyo.

Japan has proposed some solutions, but cannot resolve it thoroughly. The Tokyo Organizing Committee has rescheduled some outdoor events, such as moving the marathon to the morning, widening green cover and using heat-resistant materials to build the venues. But these measures are not enough.

Though Japan doesn't want to reschedule the opening ceremony, it can move some outdoor games to other regions to avoid the extreme heat and also boost local economies. Hokkaido, which enjoys a cool summer, can be an ideal choice. However, Tokyo wants to make the Olympic Games a complete legacy of the city and has no interest in sharing it with other regions. These outdoor games will still have to be held in the scorching capital.

The 1964 Olympic Games offered a perfect opportunity for Japan to celebrate its peaceful transformation and democratic restoration after WWII. And the 2020 Olympics will be a major opportunity for Japan to receive foreign guests with quality services and hospitality, known as omotenashi, and showcase modern Japanese society. It will be a test to see if Japan can properly deal with the intense weather and provide a comfortable environment for athletes and spectators.

Details of the Olympic Games will serve as a litmus test to evaluate modern Japanese society. I hope Japan will put the athletes and spectators first, and hold fascinating Olympics despite the uncomfortable temperature.

The author is an editor at the Global Times and a research fellow on Japan issues.

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