(ATR) Tokyo's governor says the city will continue to try “creative things” to ensure a smooth 2020 Olympic legacy, as the IOC heaps praise on the project.
Koike in the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building (ATR Japan)
Yuriko Koike spoke exclusively with Around the Rings
on the first day of the IOC coordination commission's visit to Tokyo. Koike’s tone was upbeat about Games preparations and proud that the IOC continues to commend work on venue construction.
She said she hopes the commission will come away from its latest visit feeling Tokyo 2020 is “sure and secure”.
“The preparation is smooth and on time, and funding is for a sustainable Olympic Games,” Koike said. “I would like to make the Games represent Tokyo as a mature and sustainable city.”
Two Years To Go Budget Squeeze
Tokyo 2020 is entering the two years to go milestone, attempting to present a renewed drive for enthusiasm for the Games amid a prolonged budget restructuring. Koike won election in 2016 following a scandal when previous governor Yoichi Masuzoe was found to have misused public funds.
Koike’s election came as Tokyo was finalizing its venue plan, and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government called for a total budget review. A study warned the cost of the Olympics could spiral to $30 billion. Talks with the IOC, Tokyo organizers, and the metropolitan and national governments produced a budget that capped Games costs at just over $16 billion.
John Coates, chair of the IOC's Tokyo 2020 watchdog, says more than 30 budget reduction measures are still being assessed by the IOC and would be decided by Aug. 1.
“Various discussions came about about the venues that Tokyo is responsible for, and there were very high cost venues to be reduced,” Koike said. “On the other hand, the Tokyo Games is also an investment to innovate Tokyo further. We believe the legacy is not only the hard infrastructure but also the lifestyle such as changing the Japanese work style, making a society where men, women, children and disabled people can live together.”
One of Koike’s first acts as governor was traveling to Rio de Janeiro for the close of the 2016 Olympics. She received the Olympic flag from Rio mayor Eduardo Paes in the traditional Olympic handover. She repeated the gesture a month later for the Paralympic handover.
"Positive" Legacy and Creative Solutions
Koike told ATR
that while past Olympic hosts have seen negative legacies emerge post-Games, including Rio de Janeiro, work needs to be done to protect citizens from risks. Also, she admitted that challenges remain in solidifying both traffic and security plans to reduce the impact Games-time.
“To ensure that a negative legacy from Tokyo doesn’t happen and the taxpayers will be fulfilled, we are continuing to devise creative solutions,” Koike said. “We will continue to try.”
The TMG (ATR Japan)
Koike described her relationship with the IOC as “very good,” saying she “receives precious advice” from Coates and CoComm vice-chair Alex Gilady. She listed the recently passed laws that ban smoking in many public areas and restaurants, and work to eliminate discrimination against LGBT individuals as falling in line with the Olympic Charter.
Another law will see four days of carbon emissions offset from a cap-and-trade program during the Olympics. Two of the days will be the opening and closing ceremonies. Koike said these policies reflected the fact that Tokyo and the IOC “share the same objectives” for the Games.
Combating Olympic Fatigue
Two years to go is the right time to reinvigorate the Japanese public toward the Olympic project. Tokyo 2020 will shortly present its mascots to the public for the first time. Koike said preliminary meetings about the torch relay have begun, which she hopes will help engage the entire country with the Olympic spirit.
Koike is also tasked with increasing the recruitment of volunteers for Tokyo 2020. Last month NHK released a poll showing less than 15 percent of respondents were interested in becoming Games volunteers. Many cited requirements that volunteers must pay for their own accommodations and travel to work as reasons to not sign up.
Koike disputed the poll saying that the next Tokyo marathon will draw tens of thousands of volunteers, many of whom will go on, she believes, to help at Tokyo 2020. Shrugging off Olympic concerns, Koike said she has drawn support from an unlikely source, former mayor of London Boris Johnson, who this week quit as foreign secretary amid the British government's Brexit crisis.
“Boris told me that people worry a lot and embrace the sense of crisis before the Olympics, but people say it was okay after the Olympics ended,” Koike said. “So hearing that, I will continue the preparations steadily.”
Written and reported by Aaron Bauer in Tokyo. Translation provided by Mitsu Oda, and photos taken by Yukino Oumi.
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