LONDON – One of the people responsible for organizing the groundbreaking London Paralympics in 2012 said Tokyo needs to regain control over the budget now, and find the “right blend” of new and existing venues.
Chris Holmes, who was director of Paralympic integration for London 2012 and is now a member of the House of Lords, said the success of the 2020 Paralympics will rest on engaging the entire country and selling every single ticket.
If done right, he said, it could drive forward Japan’s future much like the bullet train did at the time of the 1964 Games.
In an interview with Kyodo News in London, Holmes said, “Certainly a big challenge clearly for Tokyo at the moment, is to get a tighter grip on cost, and that’s where you really need to be clear to understand the budget from both the top down and the grass roots up, to understand both ends of the budget, and to ensure that all of the partners and all of the departments within the organizing committee have got a really tight grip on those costs.
“Otherwise with such a complex project, with new (Olympic and Paralympic) sports coming in for Tokyo 2020, these things can easily expand,” he warned, adding, “At the moment, this is the right time for Tokyo to re-grip that budget, to be clear about where some of those costs are getting out of control.”
Speaking on competition venues, Holmes said, “On the operational side, it’s always a key point to constantly consider how to make that right blend of existing venues, new venues and temporary venues.”
“The key to new venues,” he pointed out, “is to ensure that you absolutely have a credible, commercial future in legacy post-games, otherwise don’t do them, and then getting the right use of temporary venues, being able to put them in iconic venues.”
He suggested these decisions should be seen through the International Olympic Committee’s vision for a more affordable and applicable games.
He added, “I think what is a fabulous opportunity for Tokyo is for the first time to have this sense of venues spread across the city, to give that sense of taking the games’ magic to even more places throughout the host city.”
While sports such as sailing have been placed far from the center in previous games, Holmes, who is a former Paralympian, cautioned, “You should always start from the presumption you’re trying to make everything as compact as can be, so the athlete, the spectator, the media really get that sense of this is the games, this is Tokyo 2020.”
He sees moving “too much, too far,” as a “potentially dangerous approach.”
“One should certainly be cautious about that,” he said.
Having met Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike at the Rio Games, Holmes said he believes she has the right approach and understanding of the potential that the Paralympics hold.
London 2012 was the first Paralympics to sell out its tickets, something that is vital to a successful games, as is an athlete-centered approach, according to Holmes.
He said, “Do the massive piece of work of engaging with everybody across Tokyo and everybody across Japan. Because one of the keys, one of the absolute fundamentals for the Paralympic Games, is you have to sell all the tickets.”
“Constantly, every day, think: Are we doing everything we can? Have we got the strategy? Have we got the plan to sell? Not to give away, not to discount, but to value and to sell every single ticket to the Paralympic Games. Put athletes at the center, focus on selling all the tickets, and everything can flow from there.”
In London, the ambition to sell out 100 percent was achieved through changing underlying attitudes toward disability.
“It was more than communications. It was a vision, a mission, which was completely predicated on cultural transformation,” he said.
Holmes views Tokyo 2020 as an opportunity that is coming to the right place at the right time.
He pointed out, “Fabulous nation, fabulous people, but the whole construction of Japanese society means that there’s a real opportunity. The real challenge around the Paralympics is all around that sense of diversity and inclusion, and enabling disability to come through in a really positive, equitable way.”
“I think that it’s a unique challenge to Japan, but the real opportunity is that for Japan, the time is so absolutely right to take on that challenge. Because for Japanese society to really come through and be able to be as successful, as phenomenal as it absolutely can be, there has to be that sense of opening up to diversity, to difference, to possibility that comes through that and from that.
“The Paralympics comes at a fabulous moment in time for Japan, and the prize, let’s say, is a society which is then truly able to write stunning, stunning stories going forward, and really drive the future both from a social and economic perspective, and it’s the social, the economic, the cultural equivalent of the bullet train project,” he said.
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