Let the games inspire Japan

Kashiwazaki, Niigata

Regarding William Noll’s Jan. 17 letter, “Olympics bid a waste of money“: Is Tokyo’s bid a waste of money?

It’s a lot harder to sneer at the bid since we’ve witnessed what happened in London last summer. Despite the British economy being in the doldrums, and the spiraling preparation costs, Britain delivered on the Olympic Games without equal.

If there is one thing I will take from the games in London, it’s the spirit. Huge crowds turned out for everything. Indeed, during the cycling road races, hundreds of thousands of people lined the streets to cheer in the rain. British athletics delivered the biggest medal haul in British Olympic history.

The fact that the games have been heavily praised for the atmosphere, facilities and legacy plan means that they have already begun to return the massive investment.

Noll questions whether Japan’s Olympic outlays would not be better used to fund child care, infrastructure repair, and the cleanup and rebuilding of Fukushima.

In a way, Noll is right. But not all of the money spent on the London games came from government coffers. A large chunk came from private sources, and it helped pay for the construction of new sporting facilities and infrastructure in the east end of London. That area was a wasteland before.

The Olympics acted as a driver for the government to get things done rather than wring its hands. Lest we forget, it was Japan that sparked the high-speed rail revolution when it introduced the Shinkansen ahead of the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo.

Can the Olympics help rebuild Fukushima?

Not directly, as there will be no housing built in Fukushima to house Olympians. Still, the games can help economically. The organizing committee will be in position to hand out construction contracts that will cover steel, chairs, artwork, painting, flowers, light bulbs, pins, volunteer uniforms, you name it.

Investing in the Olympics does not have to preempt investment in more immediate needs. It can inspire Japan to put on the best show possible — especially after London pushed the bar ever higher. Japan has been hit hard by the “lost decade,” political inaction and China’s overtaking of it economically.

Don’t forget that the games will also draw foreign visitors (all of them consumers) and will renew Japan’s belief in its ability to pursue dreams and get things done.

London used the motto “Inspire a generation.” As the economic numbers come in, we will see how successful the London Olympics have been. Maybe Tokyo can do the same in 2020.

paul woodcock
kashiwazaki, niigata

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.