Representatives of the city of Osaka and Osaka Prefecture, local sports federations and citizens’ activist groups gathered Sept. 27 at a symposium to weigh the pros and cons of staging the Olympics in Osaka.

The Committee to Think About the Osaka Olympics, which was formed after Osaka was officially declared the Japanese Olympic Committee’s candidate for the 2008 Games, sponsored the event, which was held in south Osaka. Four panelists, including a city representative, two academics and a Nagano official involved in next year’s Winter Olympics, discussed social, financial and environmental issues facing an Osaka Olympics. Audience members also were invited to present their views.

Although the committee is not officially for or against the Olympics, most of the panelists and attendees were clearly opposed. “An Osaka Olympics will benefit no one but the construction companies and city hall bureaucrats,” said panelist Fumio Yamada, a university professor.

Yamada’s comments are partially reflected in the results of a recent survey conducted by the Osaka Shinkin Bank. The bank asked 930 companies in the Osaka area if they wanted the Olympics, and of 891 responses, more than 62 percent said they did, while the remainder said they did not.

Transportation and construction companies were the biggest supporters of an Osaka Olympics, while real estate companies and small and medium-size businesses were opposed. Some people at the symposium expressed concern about the city’s ability — not just financially, but logistically — to handle such a large event. In a survey of 100 people conducted by the Osaka Prefecture labor union in late August, half welcomed the JOC’s decision, more than 18 percent did not and almost 32 percent said they did not care either way.

“The real issue, though, is Osaka’s ability to hold the Olympics,” said Hiroshi Yamazaki, a prefectural employee who helped carry out the survey. “Our survey showed that only 19.5 percent of the respondents believed Osaka had the ability to hold the Olympics,” he said. “But more than 40 percent said they thought Osaka could not host the Olympics.”

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