Two years to the week that Tokyo won its bid over Istanbul and Madrid to host the 2020 Olympic Games, major stumbles in planning and preparation have caused the shining promise to take a nosedive.
The upward-creeping costs projected for the National Stadium took on the semblance of those news reports about Shinjuku night clubs, where unwary patrons were stuck with outrageous bill-padding — except that rather than hundreds of thousands of yen, stadium cost overruns were in the hundreds of millions.
Political pressures forced Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to step in, and the planners wielded their budgetary axe, trimming ¥100.1 billion from the project by such measures as reducing the stadium’s footprint, cutting seating capacity from 72,000 to 68,000 and removing air conditioning from the seating area, although roofing will be retained to keep spectators dry and out of direct sunlight.
This past week the games received another black eye in the form of a pakuri giwaku (“rip-off scandal”) — accusations that Kenjiro Sano’s design for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic logo was strikingly similar to one being used by the Theatre de Liege in Belgium. So it was yanked, and major corporate sponsors alone are reportedly looking at losses that add up to a whopping ¥67 billion and counting. Masaki Kito, an attorney, tells Nikkan Gendai (Sept. 3) that designer Sano may face possible charges of obstruction of business and/or theft of intellectual property. Being found guilty of the latter is nothing to sneeze at, as it provides for fines of up to ¥10 million and imprisonment of up to 10 years and still leaves Sano open to damage lawsuits by over a dozen corporate sponsors.
To add insult to injury, the media are now raising suspicions that some of Sano’s other designs are also short on originality. Flash (Sept. 1) ran photos of numerous items from Sano’s studio, ranging from commercial logos to coffee mugs and tote bags, and pointed out their similarity to existing designs.
The dates set for the 2020 event are also drawing heavy fire. Unlike the 18th Olympiad in 1964, which opened to brisk autumn skies on Oct. 10 and ended on Oct. 24, the 2020 Games will begin on July 24 and end on Aug. 9. Sunday Mainichi (Aug. 30) warns that they are likely to go down in history as the “Scorching Olympics.”
Meteorologist Michihiko Tonouchi points out that Tokyo summers are unmistakably getting hotter. Five years ago, Japan’s capital had just one day of mōshobi, when temperatures exceeded 35 degrees Celsius, during the aforementioned 17-day period; this year it baked for 10 such days.
“Five years hence, city temperatures are forecast to be even hotter,” opines Tonouchi. “As the temperature in Tokyo hits 30 degrees Celsius by 9 a.m., it isn’t an environment conducive to outdoor sports.”
Humidity during the 2020 Games is likely to average between 70 and 80 percent, making heatstroke a major concern both for the athletes and spectators.
Sports journalist Akemi Masuda, who competed in the marathon at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984, worries that running the 42.195 km will be a “killer.”
“The best time to start would be 5 a.m., or 6 a.m. at the latest,” Masuda remarked. “Reaching the goal any time after 9 a.m. will be life-threatening.”
The 2020 dates for the games were reportedly picked as a concession to U.S. TV networks, in order to avoid overlap with major U.S. sports events held at other times — thereby ensuring a larger viewing audience.
If you’re looking for something a bit more extreme than just the climate, you can always turn to Spa! (Sept. 1), which issues some nightmarish economic, political and environmental scenarios for the world five years hence.
First of all, China — with plans to fete the centennial anniversary of the founding of its Communist Party in 1921 — will have absorbed the rebel province of Taiwan, and the citizens of Okinawa, caving in to pressure from the malevolent dragon next door, will seek safety by declaring their independence from Japan. And while these Earth-shaking events are occurring, Japan will reel for real, due to a surge in volcanic activity.
For some more off-the-wall prognostications, one need look no further than Mu, a monthly magazine from Gakken for otaku (geeks) who enjoy dabbling into the occult.
Takeharu Mikami, Mu’s editor, went out on a limb and echoed predictions for three events that will lead to the cancellation of the 2020 Games. The first relates to predictions by the late Bulgarian prophetess Vangelia Pandeva Dimitrova, better known as Baba Vanga, who died in 1996. Baba Vanga, who apparently has many believers in Russia, is said to have predicted America’s election of a black president. But she also claimed he would be America’s last president. Left leaderless after 2016, the U.S. will descend into chaos.
To add fuel to the fire, Jews are predicted to begin construction of their third temple in Jerusalem, restoring those erected in antiquity by King Solomon and King Herod. Their efforts will be backed by full support from the world’s Freemasons. This action, needless to say, would infuriate the world’s Muslims, whose mosque, the Dome of the Rock, currently occupies the Haram al Sharif — or Temple Mount, depending on who’s talking. Which brings us to the third prediction — the outbreak of a fifth Middle East war that will drive the final nail into the Olympic coffin.