Tokyo submits bid for 2016 Olympics

by Mayumi Negishi and Kaho Shimizu

Mindful of the boom created by the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government on Friday submitted to the Japan Olympic Committee its candidacy to host the 2016 Games.

Tokyo will compete with Fukuoka to become Japan’s candidate to host the Summer Olympics — both will submit final plans and budgets by June 30.

The winner, which will be decided by the end of August, is expected to then compete with strong rivals, including New York, Chicago , Rio de Janeiro and Madrid.

So far, Tokyo and Fukuoka have been very secretive about their bids, especially about cost issues.

“We will launch a campaign to win against the world’s most competitive cities,” Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara told reporters, adding that he will visit London at the end of May to inquire into that city’s strategy in winning the right to host the 2012 Olympics.

“Tokyo will be one of the world’s most compact Olympics,” he said, citing the train network and existing facilities, including the Budokan hall and Tokyo International Forum all within a 10-km radius.

Tokyo wants to show off Japan’s gadgets, technology and hospitality.

Fukuoka, for its part, says it is time to emphasize Japan’s exchanges with Asia and the rest of the world, and to extend the Olympic message of peace.

As for cost, some metro government officials say the event could come with a tab as much as 1 trillion yen, the same cost of the Tokyo Games in 1964 terms. Ishihara has said it shouldn’t cost as much because Tokyo can use existing facilities this time.

Tokyo set up a preparatory fund of 100 billion yen in fiscal 2006 and will set aside the same amount for the purpose from its annual budget for the next few years. The rest, officials say, can be paid for through tax revenues and bond issues.

Fukuoka’s fund meanwhile stands at 1 billion yen. The city estimates it would need a total 486 billion yen to set up new facilities for the Games, and that the city could shoulder 97 billion yen of that cost. It is pitching a smaller but more efficient Olympics.

Usually, when making an Olympics bid, supporters cite economic benefits. But neither city has yet done so.

The metro government will make further details of its plans clear in mid-May.

When asked what he thought of Fukuoka’s plans, Ishihara said that city failed to go beyond elaborating what kind of Olympic spirit they mean to convey.

“What is important is not spirit, but how smoothly you can realize the operational aspect of the Games, and how much you can hold costs down,” Ishihara said, while refusing to say how much an Olympics in Tokyo would cost Japan.

This has angered some metro assembly members.

“The metropolitan government is ignoring the will of the citizens of Tokyo,” said Japanese Communist Party member Nobuo Yoshida.

Citing the case of Sapporo, which bowed out of the host-city race in February, citing high costs, he said Tokyo should at least make an effort to calculate the total cost. The city withdrew its candidacy after 35.3 percent of residents polled opposed the plan, compared with 33.3 percent in favor.

“It is impossible to calculate possible economic effects and costs without mapping out concrete measures,” said Mitsuru Chikuma, a metro official.

Kwansei Gakuin University professor Nobutaka Murao said the metro government lacks the consciousness that it is using taxpayer money in its bid.

Both cities want an environment-friendly Olympics. Tokyo has proposed showing off eco-friendly vehicles to transport athletes, while Fukuoka would set the Olympics by Hakata Bay and its mountains, to convey a message of sustainable development.

Both cities are also pitching accessibility. Tokyo athletes would be housed in the Ariake waterfront area of Koto Ward, and a main stadium will be built in Harumi, in Chuo Ward. Tokyo already has 40 athletic facilities within a 10 km radius.

Fukuoka said it would house athletes in three clusters along Hakata Bay. Half would be able to reach the athletic arenas in five minutes, and 80 percent would be within 20 minutes of the facilities. It would build a pool in Yahoo Dome, but the existing facilities should be enough to host the event, city officials reckoned.