Olympics No Game For Japan

The International Olympic Committee selected Tokyo as host city of the 2020 Summer Games, beating Istanbul by a vote of 60-36.

Photo: AP Photo / Koji Sasahara
Tokyo Gov. Naoki Inose, right, and Tokyo 2020 Bid Ambassador and silver medalist fencer Yuki Ota, left, acknowledge cheers during a special event to celebrate Tokyo's successful bid to host the 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympics Sept. 10..

According to IOC President Jacques Rogge Sept. 7 in Buenos Aires, “We are confident our Japanese friends will be able to provide excellent games. They will provide secure games, well organized with the welfare of the athletes in mind.”

There had been some doubt as to whether the ongoing crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, which is 250 kilometers north of Tokyo, would have an adverse affect on the IOC’s decision.

Apparently the reassurances of the Tokyo bid committee, including Prime MInister Shinzo Abe, were effective. Another reason for the IOC’s decision was Tokyo’s promises of a “compact Olympics.”

All the facilities and events will be located within an 8-kilometer radius of the Olympic Village, which will be built on landfill in the Tokyo waterfront area. Moreover, more than half of the venues will be already existing facilities.

Tokyo hosted the summer games in 1964, when the country was still recovering from the devastation of World War II. In fact, the 1964 Olympics has come to symbolize the turning point for Japan, as a great deal of Tokyo’s storied infrastructure was built for it.

Some are hoping the 2020 Olympics will do the same in the face of the devastation of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, whose effects are still present in the shattered Tohoku region. However, various media have reported from the disaster area that many residents are disappointed in the Olympic news because they think it means the government will neglect reconstruction in the area in favor of Olympic development in Tokyo.

Reconstruction has been notoriously slow. As far as development goes, the government is optimistic, saying that the games are expected to produce 2.3 trillion yen ($23 billion) in “new demand,” including construction investment, sales of home electronics and production of Olympic-licensed goods.

In addition, Tokyo expects 8.5 million visitors for the 2020 Olympics, more than all the tourists that came to Japan in 2012.

The spillover effect from the games has been estimated at 3 trillion yen for the next eight years, though some economists challenge this figure because much of it is simply taxpayer money being redistributed through construction projects. In an interesting sidelight, stock prices for casino-related companies surged when the news of Tokyo’s selection was announced.