2020 Tokyo Games: Costs related to Japan's scorching summers being factored into the budget

by Magdalena Osumi

Staff Writer

Organizers and the head of the International Olympic Committee’s inspection team for the Tokyo 2020 Games on Wednesday said the rising costs associated with preventing heat-related illnesses and injuries to athletes and spectators due to the country’s increasingly hotter summers are being factored into the budget, which they promise remains on target.

John Coates, the leader of the IOC’s delegation, said at a news conference in the capital that issues surrounding weather conditions during the July to August period and transportation during the games have been primary topics of debate in recent months.

To diminish risks to the health of athletes, the organizers have decided to push back the starting times of mountain bike races by an hour. Under the proposed schedule change, the races will be held from 3 p.m. to 5. p.m.

All morning rugby matches, meanwhile, will start from 9 a.m., 90 minutes earlier than previously planned.

Coates said Wednesday that organizers are planning to move the start of the marathon from 7 a.m. to 6 a.m., but that move has yet to be made official.

The discussion regarding event start times follows this summer’s spate of record-setting temperatures, with the mercury rising above 40 degrees in Tokyo and other areas. The warming trend has the government, and the IOC, very concerned.

“This was an abnormal period. It was a period when there was an impact on the population at large with this heat and so it was the abnormality that highlighted the sorts of measures that will increase the cost,” Coates said.

He said the organizers in a revised draft budget have included funding for new measures such as shading for spectators, mechanisms to spray water on marathon runners along the course and nonreflective pavement.

More medical resources will also be made available, Coates said.

The organizers said, however, they were also able to cut some costs, having discovered savings of ¥2.2 billion in venue-related expenses and ¥2.1 billion in operating costs.

Coates said that he is confident that the budget for the games will stay on target, while assuring that efforts would continue to reduce additional costs before the opening ceremony scheduled for July 24, 2020.

He said the organizers managed to secure $100 million in funding from sponsors, adding that the committee was working to ensure the proposed budget will not exceed the previously announced figure. The organizers will reveal the new budget proposal Dec. 21.

In December 2017, the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games estimated the total costs for the games to be ¥1.35 trillion.

Wednesday’s announcement comes amid heated debate over the actual cost of the games. Earlier in the year, the Board of Audit of Japan concluded the cost could reach ¥3 trillion and revealed that the central government had spent some ¥801.1 billion on 286 state projects linked to the games between fiscal 2013 and fiscal 2017.

Summarizing his current visit, Coates praised the overall progress made in preparation for the event and gave assurances the organizers were on track “to deliver spectacular Olympic and Paralympic Games.”

“We’re very clear that Tokyo 2020 has moved into the operational phase,” he said.

Since late November, IOC members have been inspecting the planned venues, including in Fukushima, where baseball and softball matches will be held.

Yoshiro Mori, president of the Tokyo organizing committee, shared complimentary comments from IOC President Thomas Bach, quoting him as saying that “such progress two years before the event had not been seen in any of the previous host countries.”

The organizers said that as of Tuesday, over 100,000 people have signed up to assist athletes and spectators during the games, with 40 percent of prospective volunteers coming from overseas.

Coates said the figures are “an indication of interest” in how many people are excited about taking part in the games.