|

OLYMPIC GUIDING FORCE

Games organizing committee clock is ticking

by Masaaki Kameda

Staff Writer

With the organizing committee for the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics up and running, preparations for the mega-project have commenced. The main hurdles it faces are how to amass the vast sums of money needed to stage the games and the personnel needed to run them. There is also the task of maintaining public interest in the event until 2020.

Here is a rundown of the key players on the committee and its main tasks for the next six years.

What’s the role of the Olympic organizing committee?

The Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games is in charge of preparations and overall management for the 2020 Games, including the individual sporting events, the opening and closing ceremonies, the facilities, including the athletes’ village, and transportation and security for the venues.

The committee, set up in late January, will submit a basic organizational plan to the IOC by next February, a committee official said. The plan will be fleshed out based on the “candidature file” the bid committee submitted to the IOC in January last year.

Who is on the committee?

Former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, 76, was appointed president and former Vice Finance Minister Toshiro Muto, 70, was named chief executive officer when the panel was launched.

Mori was chosen apparently because of his wide connections in various fields, including sports, and his contribution toward Tokyo’s successful bid for the games. The former president of Japan Sports Association and current president of the Japan Rugby Football Union, Mori has been involved in Tokyo’s efforts since its failed bid for the 2016 Games.

Education minister Hakubun Shimomura, who doubles as minister in charge of the Olympics, said Mori “has international networks as well as connections with domestic sports . . . and the business world.”

Muto meanwhile is expected to serve as the committee’s coordinator with both the ministries and international bodies, including the IOC.

“(His) presence helps a lot as he has deep relationships with officials at the ministries, municipalities and business sectors,” Mori said of Muto at the inaugural news conference last month.

Have any major business executives been appointed?

Mori told reporters Feb. 9 in Sochi, Russia, where he and others were inspecting the Winter Games, that Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota Motor Corp., is expected to be appointed one of the vice chairmen, and that Fujio Mitarai, CEO of Canon Inc. and a former chairman of Keidanren, will become honorary president.

Appointing leading business figures is expected to help the committee collect money for the project. According to the candidature file, the organizing committee expects to collect ¥101.98 billion in sponsorship revenue and ¥10 billion in donations.

Newly elected Tokyo Gov. Yoichi Masuzoe said Friday that he will visit Sochi to attend the closing ceremony for the Winter Olympics and meet IOC officials, apparently to raise the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s profile as host of the 2020 Games. The capital was leaderless for about two months after former Gov. Naoki Inose resigned over a money scandal in December.

Are there any young people or women on the committee?

Not yet. Critics say the appointments to date are focused too much on getting the support of ministries and businesses and should include young athletes and women, including two-time Olympic silver medalist fencer Yuki Ota, Paralympian Mami Sato and TV presenter Christel Takigawa. They contributed considerably toward Tokyo’s successful bid.

Mori said women and young people will be among the 25 to 30 executive board members.

“I will take a woman’s appointment into full consideration,” Mori said in Sochi. “I also would like young people to join us.”

How big is the staff?

It started with about 50 members, mostly from the metropolitan government and some from the Japanese Olympic Committee and the central government, a committee official said.

That will be increased to 3,000 in six years to include people from the private sector and various sports at home and abroad, the official said.

The committee also aims to have 80,000 volunteers. Details, including when to recruit them and what activities to use them for, have yet to be determined, the official said.

What are its other tasks?

The committee needs to come up with a theme for both the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, said Tokyo Metropolitan University professor Naofumi Masumoto, who studies the games.

Tokyo will have to hold a performance based on that theme at the closing ceremony for the Rio de Janeiro Games in August 2016, as the next host city, Masumoto said.

“This is a big task, and we have only a little over two years left,” he said.

Masumoto also pointed out that the committee will have to come up with Japanese cultural programs and cultural exchanges, as well as programs and educational activities related to the environment that will be staged after the 2016 Olympics and Paralympics.

“The three pillars of ‘Olympism’ are sports, culture and the environment. The efforts on these (pillars) will begin from 2016, when the (Rio de Janeiro) Olympics end,” Masumoto said. “The public may be only interested in the (2020 Games) venues, the number of medals, the economic effects and infrastructure, but cultural and environmental programs must not be overlooked.”

What are key concerns regarding the preparations?

Masumoto said the key concern will be holding the budget to the originally planned amount, as it tends to grow from the initial estimate.

According to the candidature file, the budget for the committee is about ¥301.3 billion and the total cost of building the venues is estimated to be about ¥455.4 billion.

Another difficult task is how to train the 80,000 volunteers it hopes to recruit, Masumoto said.

“It will be an urgent task to nurture leaders among the volunteers who can instruct other volunteers,” he said. “(The committee) also needs to consider how to handle volunteers from overseas.”

The government is also concerned about the shortage of construction workers, which could affect the preparations. According to land ministry data, the annual shortage rate averaged about 1.6 percent in calendar 2013, the worst since comparable figures became available in 1993. To cope with the crunch, the government plans to compile by the end of March measures to accept more foreign workers.

The Weekly FYI appears Tuesdays. Readers are encouraged to send ideas, questions and opinions to hodobu@japantimes.co.jp