As financing questions linger over the costly rebuilding of National Stadium for the 2020 Olympics, Tokyo Gov. Yoichi Masuzoe has lashed out at the central government, likening it to the reality-denying Japanese Imperial Army during World War II.
Masuzoe was speaking Tuesday at a news conference at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government headquarters a day after learning that the facility will not be completed as originally envisaged by the time of the Olympics.
The stadium is currently being demolished and will be rebuilt to an ambitious design, but Monday’s announcement that a planned retractable roof will be omitted on grounds of cost and schedule was apparent confirmation that not all is going well.
The central government has “said repeatedly that (the Olympics) will be successful and easy,” the governor said.
He contrasted its assurances with its apparent reluctance to release concrete details, likening it to the Imperial Army’s control of information during World War II to hide from the public the unfavorable progress of the war.
On Monday, sports minister Hakubun Shimomura visited Masuzoe to inform him of progress and announced the plan to omit the roof, which amounts to a significant scaling back of the project. Building work is scheduled to begin in October.
Masuzoe said this smacked of irresponsibility. “They are supposed to have a concrete plan” at the moment when they sign off on the cost and construction schedule, he said.
“That was the first time I have ever heard from officials” about a change in plans, Masuzoe said.
“As the leader of the Olympic host city, I am deeply worried about the future course” of the preparations, he said.
Separately, Shimomura demanded that the metropolitan government meet one-third of the cost of hosting the Olympics, or ¥50 billion out of an estimated total of ¥150 billion. The cash would ultimately come from taxpaying Tokyo residents and businesses.
Still, Masuzoe said he is committed to making the Olympics a success, adding that he believes Tokyo residents will be happy to cooperate as long as the central government makes a compelling case. It should explain how the costly stadium will benefit the city after the Olympics, he said.
But Masuzoe said he has not heard any such information yet during his term as governor, which has been more than a year. “I doubt people in Tokyo will be satisfied,” he said.