Olympic Trouble

As predicted by critics, Tokyo is already seeing significant financial problems with its hosting of the 2020 Summer Olympic Games. 

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..

As the International Olympic Committee recently carried out an inspection tour of designated competition venues, local officials were backtracking on promises made when the city made its pitch.

The main problem, according to the Nihon Keizai Shimbun, is “unexpectedly high” construction costs.

Originally, the Japan Olympic Committee pledged a “compact” games, with all events located within 8 kilometers of the Olympic Village, which will be built on landfill in Tokyo Bay. However, this scenario is proving extremely costly.

Tokyo Governor Yoichi Masuzoe announced July 22 that several events may take place in neighboring Chiba Prefecture, across the bay from Tokyo. The JOC was going to build a marina in Tokyo for the sailing events, but apparently it will be cheaper to build it in a harbor on the Chiba coast, which is more than 25 kilometers from the Olympic Village. The Japan Sailing Federation, which was not told of this planned change before the announcement, expressed dismay.

The metropolitan government initially estimated the cost of the games at $1.49 billion when it was competing with Madrid and Istanbul to be the host, but now it is projected that the price may be double that.

The uncertainty has even affected the construction of the new national stadium, which was supposed to begin in July but has been delayed by exceptionally high bids from contractors. The central government has also asked the Tokyo government to contribute more to the costs, which will certainly upset Tokyo residents, who were not unanimous in wanting to host the Games at all. The city-prefecture is already scrambling for funds to increase its staff, which numbers only 150 people right now. Ideally, they need 3,000.