Tokyo pushes ahead

By Lu Wenao in Tokyo Source:Global Times Published: 2019/4/18 19:58:04

With less than 500 days before 2020 Olympics, scandals rock prep plans


Construction works continue at the New National Stadium in Tokyo on Tuesday. Photo: IC



Walking around the site of the New National Stadium in Tokyo, there's little noise to indicate the stadium is under construction. 

But the construction of the main stadium for the 2020 Tokyo Games is already behind schedule, after Zaha Hadid's 2015 design was scrapped due to soaring costs. 

Originally set to host the final of the 2019 Rugby World Cup, the stadium won't be completed until November. 

The centerpiece stadium is made of wood, triggering concerns that cauldron for the symbolic Olympic flame could pose a fire risk.  

Resignations



Following allegations of corruption over Tokyo's successful bid to host the 2020 Games, Japan's Olympic chief Tsunekazu Takeda said he will resign from the post when his term ends in June. 

Takeda is currently under investigation by French authorities for alleged bribery. Even though he has repeatedly denied the allegations, serious questions have been raised about the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. 

Masa Takaya, spokesperson of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee, insists that Tokyo's preparation is "right on track" despite the pending departure of Takeda, who played a key role in the bid in 2013.

"We remain confident to deliver a successful Games in less than 500 days' time," Takaya told the Global Times.

Last week, Japan appointed Shunichi Suzuki as the new Olympics minister to replace the gaffe-prone politician Yoshitaka Sakurada was forced to step down after a string of embarrassing missteps.

In 2015, the 2020 organizers were also forced to scrap the Games' official logo designed by Kenjiro Sano. The designer's stylized "T" was too similar to the logo used by the Theatre de Liege in Belgium.

In 2016, the Tokyo 2020 logo was replaced by an emblem that takes the form of a ring in an indigo-colored checkerboard pattern.

Concerns over Fukushima 



Japan has dubbed the 2020 Games as the "Reconstruction Olympics," which was supposed to highlight the country's recovery from the 2011 earthquake along its northeast coast.

The disaster included a huge tsunami and meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Some 50,000 local residents still have not returned to their homes. 

Baseball, which will return to the Olympics after a 12-year hiatus, will be played at the Azuma Baseball Stadium in Fukushima, causing some to be concerned about exposure to high levels of radiation. 

"Background radiation levels in Fukushima prefecture, including Fukushima City where the venue is located, are no different from those in major cities around the world," Takaya told the Global Times, noting Japan's national athletics championships was held at the Azuma Athletic Stadium in Fukushima in 2014.

"We are looking forward to welcoming the world's top teams to Fukushima in 2020, and showing the world the extent to which the region has evolved almost 10 years after the 2011 disaster."

Budget control

The skyrocketing cost of hosting the Games has also plagued the Tokyo Olympics, just as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) pushes for "sustainable" Olympic Games.

The current budget for organizing the Olympics and Paralympics has reached $5.6 billion, but it "remains balanced and fully privately financed by the IOC, sponsors, licensing and ticket revenues, with no burden to taxpayers," Takaya said.

To reduce cost, some venues used at the Tokyo 1964 Olympic Games, including the Yoyogi Stadium which is famous for its suspension roof design, will be used in 2020.

Tokyo 2020 has also conducted a "medal project" to collect metals in consumer electronics, such as those used in mobile phones, to manufacture medals for the Games.

"Through this project, the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee will manufacture approximately 5,000 gold, silver and bronze medals for the Olympic and Paralympic Games," Takaya told the Global Times.

The targeted amount of bronze was extracted by June of last year, Takaya said. By October 2018, 28.4 kilograms of gold (93.7 percent of the targeted 30.3 kilograms) and 3,500 kilograms of silver (85.4 percent of the targeted 4,100 kilograms) had been sourced from the donated devices.

The collection was closed on March 31, with the organizers saying the medal design will be announced in the summer of 2019.

Currently, 204,680 people in Japan and overseas have applied to participate in the Tokyo 2020 Volunteer Program, Takaya said, adding there are only 80,000 volunteer positions. 

Nearly 36 percent of the applicants are non-Japanese and Tokyo 2020 started conducting interviews and orientation sessions in January.

There were only sporadic advertisements for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Global Times has found. The organizers vowed to strengthen publicity of the Games as the clock ticks toward the one- year-to-go mark on July 24 this year.

Olympic cities 

Northeast Asia has become the focus of Olympics in recent years, as three Games - the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games in South Korea, Tokyo 2020 Summer Games and 2022 Beijing Winter Games - are to be held consecutively in the region. 

In 2018, the Beijing Organizing Committee for the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Tokyo 2020, agreeing to cooperate with the aim of ensuring successful delivery of their respective Games.

"The two Organizing Committees will exchange expertise through the IOC and IPC's knowledge transfer programs and through an exchange of personnel," Takaya said. 

"They will share games-related experiences in areas such as sustainability, Olympic and Paralympic education and the utilization of emerging technologies."

Augmented reality technology, which was featured in the eight-minute show of Tokyo 2020 at the closing ceremony of Rio de Janerio Olympics in 2016, is expected to play a key role in the opening ceremony of Tokyo 2020.

The exchange of personnel between Olympics organizing committees is often seen in history. Though Beijing 2022 staff has not yet been dispatched to Tokyo, both organizing committees will cooperate through transfer of knowledge arrangements with the aim of promoting further Olympic and Paralympic activities in East Asia, Takaya said.



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