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  • Op Ed -- Tokyo Olympics Should Provide Few Headaches


    08/01/14

    Tokyo celebrates winning the 2020 Olympics at the IOC Session in Buenos Aires. (Getty Images)
    (ATR) After all the worries about preparations for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo 2020 should be a relief for the IOC, sports federations -- and the people of Japan.

    One of the promises made during the Tokyo bid for the Olympics was that a “safe pair of hands” would guide preparation and staging of the 2020 Olympics. With six years to go until the Opening Ceremony, Tokyo seems ready to deliver on its pledge. But just like any big enterprise with as many moving parts as the Olympics, peril lurks around every corner.

    The most immediate danger for Tokyo 2020: making the right decisions about the final venue plan for these Games.

    As with every Summer Olympic Games, the plan that was part of the winning bid is subject to change. And Tokyo will be no different in this regard. In fact, despite the high praise Tokyo received for a well-organized and compact bid, there could be more changes in Tokyo than in any recent Olympics.

    Wisely, government leaders as well as the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee are examining all the venues proposed for the Games with an eye towards sustainability, cost and legacy.

    Basketball is the biggest sport that could be affected by such a change, but badminton, slalom canoe and perhaps others also could face venue changes.

    The International Olympic Committee says nailing down venues is a priority for Tokyo 2020 that should be addressed by the end of the year. The decision-making process will be the first test of cooperation between national and city governments, Tokyo 2020 and the Japanese public, who might have something to say.

    While the IOC is anxious to know where the 28 sports will be held, it is at the same time also in the midst of a concerted effort to find ways to make the Olympics more practical for host cities. This drive for genuine sustainability follows the drama over construction delays in Rio de Janeiro for 2016 and the seemingly endless spending in Sochi to prepare for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games.

    Now it’s up to Tokyo 2020 show the IOC and international sports federations that it can make these changes expeditiously, without driving up the cost of the Games, and perhaps even lowering the cost.

    Tokyos major infrasturcure for the Games is building a new National Stadium (Getty Images)
    With its already advanced infrastructure, Tokyo already has an advantage in being able to deliver an Olympics without rebuilding the city. Yes, there are some big projects for Tokyo to conquer over the next six years, but it’s far less than what Rio and Sochi have had to build. The Olympic Village is the single biggest Games-related project, but it also represents new housing in the center of the city post-Olympics. The new national Stadium will be built by 2019, in time for the Rugby World Cup that year, meaning no construction delays or related issues that would affect the Olympics.

    There will be no complicated and expensive Olympic Park to create, as has been the case in recent Games. No new subway lines need to be built, nor highways either. It’s been a long time since the success of a Summer Olympics has not been linked to the spending of billions on new infrastructure.

    Without huge projects clogging up the city, and subsequent worries about whether they will be done on time, attention can be paid to delivering the Olympics and not some superhighway.

    The IOC, the international sports federations will be glad to avoid these distractions. But the happiest of all could be the taxpayers of Tokyo and Japan. London, property tax bills have carried a ¥3500 annual surcharge for six years now with two more to go, all to pay for the Olympic Park used for 2012 Games.

    A prudent government, a respectful IOC and understanding international sports federations can all make sure Japanese taxpayers won’t be stuck with a similar bill.

    Written by Ed Hula

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