Business

'Reconstruction Olympics': Building rush for Tokyo Games causing steel and bolt shortages in Japan's disaster-hit areas

JIJI

A building rush linked to the 2020 Tokyo Games has been affecting rebuilding efforts in some areas devastated by the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, despite the government’s push to brand the event the reconstruction Olympics.

Shortages of construction materials such as steel beams and bolts have stemmed from redevelopment projects in the capital, industry sources said.

A project is underway in Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture, to rebuild a civic gymnasium damaged by the tsunami triggered by the 9.0 magnitude earthquake in 2011. But the project is facing a delay in receiving steel beam supplies, making it difficult to complete the construction at the end of July as initially scheduled.

The gym is set to be used as a rest facility for staff during the 2019 Rugby World Cup, which starts in September.

The Kamaishi Municipal Government has decided to use an alternative material in order to complete construction before the World Cup kicks off, taking on an additional burden of some ¥380 million in building costs.

High-strength bolts, used to join steel beams, are also in short supply. Such bolts are necessary for bridge beams used in so-called reconstruction roads aimed at facilitating disaster rebuilding efforts mainly in Pacific coastal areas.

But delivery dates have been pushed back for up to some five months, according to the land ministry’s Sanriku National Highway Office in Miyako, Iwate.

The ministry has been calling on construction companies to refrain from ordering too many of the parts.

“We’re worried about whether we’ll be able to secure necessary construction supplies on time,” an official of the highway office said.

Following the partial lifting in April of an evacuation order issued after the 2011 nuclear disaster, the town of Okuma in Fukushima Prefecture is urgently seeking to rebuild. The town is one of the host municipalities of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

But the opening of commercial and accommodation facilities in the town is expected to be delayed for more than a year from the initially planned February 2020. The delay has been caused by an increase of construction costs by up to ¥800 million on top of the ¥2.9 billion initially projected due to surges in material and labor costs.

“Although the cost increase can be attributed partly to a series of natural disasters in many parts of the country, the biggest factor is the Olympics,” a town official said. “The costs have grown more than expected.”