Tokyo’s quest to host the 2020 Olympics entered a new stage last week when it presented its candidature file to the International Olympic Committee in Switzerland.
The final round will determine in September whether Tokyo has what it takes to hold off rival bidders Madrid and Istanbul.
How will Tokyo and its new governor, Naoki Inose, pursue the bid? Following are some questions and answers about the quest:
Is Tokyo’s proposal similar to its 2016 Summer Games bid?
Yes, but mainly because the capital is again boasting about its ability to hold an environmentally cleaner event in a compact area.
Like the failed 2016 bid, Tokyo plans to use 33 sports grounds, with 28 of them within 8 km of Athletes’ Village, which will be built in the Harumi district in Chuo Ward.
The plan to build the main Olympic stadium in Harumi, meanwhile, has been scratched. Instead, Tokyo simply plans to renovate National Olympic Stadium in Shinjuku Ward and reuse it.
The new plan also calls for a 44-hectare Athletes’ Village, about 13 hectares bigger than the one proposed for 2016, to address IOC concerns about whether there would be enough space.
Because most of the venues will be close by, people won’t have to travel long distances, which will effectively reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
Tokyo also plans to install solar panels and use more environmentally safer cars for transport, including electric and fuel-cell vehicles, to move people and equipment.
How many new venues will be built and how much will they cost?
Of the 37 venues proposed, 22 will be built from scratch, including 11 temporary structures. The new stadiums include Ariake Arena and the Olympics Athletics Center, both of which will be situated in Ariake, close to the Tokyo Big Sight convention center.
The cost of building the 22 facilities is estimated at ¥310.9 billion.
What would be the economic impact of hosting the games?
Tokyo’s officials estimate the Olympics could translate into a ¥1.6 trillion windfall for the metropolis, and ¥3 trillion for the country.
Why did the 2016 bid fail?
Japan didn’t want it enough.
A report by the Tokyo 2016 Olympic Bid Committee lists various factors but focuses mainly on the simple lack of public passion.
The IOC put Tokyo’s support rate at 56 percent, compared with 85 percent in Rio de Janeiro and 85 percent in Madrid.
The Tokyo report also says that Rio’s pitch to bring about “the first Olympics ever in South America” made a strong impact on the Olympic Committee.
The panel also said that even though the host country is not generally selected on a geographical basis, the fact that Beijing hosted the 2008 Olympics reduces the chances of holding the 2016 Games in Asia.
What are Tokyo’s chances this time?
Gov. Inose is confident the capital has a good chance of winning.
In an interview with The Japan Times last month, he said he thought Doha would be his biggest rival, with its vast oil funds, but the city lost in the first round.
He also noted that the civil war raging in Syria, which occasionally encroaches on Turkey, could be a negative factor for Istanbul, while Spain has been mired in a prolonged financial and economic crisis.
Sports critic Masayuki Tamaki also feels Tokyo has a good chance but said Istanbul is the main rival.
“I think Istanbul and Tokyo are in a close race,” he said.
What are Tokyo’s concerns?
“(Public support) remains a hurdle” for Tokyo, said Tamaki.
When the IOC polled Tokyoites in May, the support rate was a mere 47 percent, versus 78 percent in Madrid and 73 percent in Istanbul.
Another challenge is diplomacy, Tamaki said, noting that politics will play a key role. Beyond just plugging the merits of Tokyo as a quality venue, Japan needs to strategically gain support from the members of the IOC.
When Tokyo won the 1964 Summer Olympics, it gained support from IOC members in Central and South America by assuring them Japan would support Mexico City’s bid for the 1968 Games, he said.
But international lobbying may be a challenge this time. Japan had two IOC members during the 2016 bid but now there is only one, Tsunekazu Takeda, chair of the Japanese Olympic Committee.
There is also speculation that Japan’s escalating territorial disputes with China and South Korea will hurt the vote.
What is Inose’s strategy?
Inose did not elaborate on the specifics at a news conference on Jan. 8, when Tokyo unveiled its final candidature file, but he has been actively engaged. Inose went to London last week to promote Tokyo’s bid and also began posting in English on his Twitter account.
He is also trying to strengthen Tokyo’s presentation and public relations skills, urging bureaucrats to more actively explain their services.
Inose also is hopeful that the high level of passion the public showed for the 2012 London Olympics can be brought into play. Japan’s athletes won a record 38 medals last summer.
A parade in the Ginza district for the medalists reportedly drew some 500,000 people in August.
Inose has also stressed that holding the Olympics would boost reconstruction in the diaster-hit Tohoku region, where lots of aid money is already being misused or misdirected.
Miyagi Stadium will host the soccer games, and Olympic torch runners will be running through the area.
Tamaki agrees that the Olympics would help the reconstruction effort. He has participated in martial arts events in Miyagi Prefecture’s tsunami-hit city of Ishinomaki over the past two years, where residents told him they will look to host sports events if the Olympics really come to Tokyo, which is just a quick ¥10,000 1 hour, 40 minute bullet train ride away from nearby Sendai.
How do opponents of the bid feel?
Many say Tokyo has more important matters to address, including the dwindling social security budget and reconstruction in Tohoku.
They also say that although hosting the Olympics would lift the economy and put the capital under the spotlight, the windfall will only be temporary.
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