Olympics minister says first task is to address stadium funding feud

by Shusuke Murai

Staff Writer

The newly appointed minister of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games says his immediate priority is to build trust between the central government and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government over funding the international sporting extravaganza.

Appointed to fill the new Cabinet position on June 25, former vice minister for sports Toshiaki Endo, 65, said in a group interview Wednesday in the Cabinet Office that he hopes to use his personal connections to smoothen the relationship between the two parties, which are feuding over the ballooning costs for the controversially huge new national stadium in central Tokyo.

“My immediate role is to work as a coordinator to help them to build a trusting relationship,” Endo said. “To do that, I want to meet with the Tokyo governor and members of the metropolitan assembly as soon as possible to establish trust as the first step toward an all-Japan effort.”

Endo said he is confident he can help establish a collaborative relationship among the various parties involved by tapping his experience as the former secretary-general of a nonpartisan group of Diet politicians who promoted Japan’s bid for the Olympics.

The metropolitan government and the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry have been at odds over how to distribute the ¥252 billion needed to construct the stadium. The price tag was confirmed Monday by the central government after about ¥90 billion was tacked onto last year’s estimate of ¥169 billion, jacking up the total by 53 percent.

Tokyo Gov. Yoichi Masuzoe rejected sports minister Hakubun Shimomura’s request in May to foot ¥50 billion of the stadium’s cost, saying the central government should clearly explain how it came up with the number before billing Tokyo’s taxpayers.

The official breakdown of the massive stadium’s cost is expected to be explained in detail Tuesday by the Japan Sports Council, which is overseeing its construction. Work on the facility is scheduled to start in October and reach completion in May 2019, two months later than previously scheduled but in time to host the Rugby World Cup in fall 2019.

At a regular news conference Friday at City Hall, Masuzoe welcomed Endo’s appointment. The two men used to work together when Masuzoe was in the Diet.

As a native of Yamagata, one of the six prefectures in the Tohoku region, which was badly damaged by the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, Endo wants the Tokyo 2020 Games to serve as a symbol of the nation’s recovery from the disasters.

“Although called the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, I consider them to be the Japan Olympics,” he said. “Four years ago we received massive emergency aid, and volunteers came from around the world. I would like to show them Japan has come far in response to their expectations,” he said.

At the news conference for his official appointment on June 25, the former rugby player said he would like to be “prop No. 1” — the player who tackles opponents in the front line — on what he called Team Endo, reflecting his determination to lead the Olympic organizing team.

Coronavirus banner