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Problems continue to mount for Tokyo 2020 team

by Jack Gallagher

Last week was another tough one for the folks at Tokyo 2020.

That may be a bit of an understatement.

Still reeling from the announcement by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on July 17 that the original plan for the centerpiece Olympic Stadium would be scrapped due to escalating costs, a new controversy broke out when shortly after the official logo for the 2020 Games was unveiled it was revealed that it looked nearly identical to one of a Belgian theater.

The Tokyo 2020 logo released also resembled one that was created by Spain’s Hey Studio in the wake of the 2011 disaster in Tohoku to solicit donations for victims.

Kenjiro Sano, who designed the logo, has denied charges of plagiarism. But the similarities are very strong. One wonders if Sano had not come across the other logos at some point and subliminally retained them.

At any rate, Tokyo 2020 is quickly turning into the gift that keeps on giving. It is fortunate that Japan does not have late night talk shows hosted by comedians, because they would be having a field day with this stuff.

Former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, who is heading up the Tokyo 2020 team, seems to be fanning the flames of the stadium controversy every time he speaks.

In the immediate aftermath of the cancellation of the original stadium plans, Mori said, “I always hated that design.”

Then he doubled down last week when he stated at a news conference: “I have nothing to do with (the design issue). Whatever (stadium) might be built, my committee would not have anything to do with it.”

Spoken like a true politician.

Promises, promises: They say your words can come back to haunt you. There is a good reason for that — they can.

Take a look at what Abe told the IOC back in September 2013 in Buenos Aires during Tokyo’s bid presentation after briefly mentioning the Fukushima crisis:

“I can also say that, from a new stadium that will look like no other to confirmed financing, Tokyo 2020 will offer guaranteed delivery.”

Ouch.

Former Tokyo Gov. Naoki Inose then ratcheted up the rhetoric.

” … Finally, we will deliver in legacy, for the city and for sport, thanks to our Games Hosting Fund of $4.5 billion — ready right now to pay for 10 new permanent venues.”

The story sure sounds different now.

Meanwhile, on Saturday it was revealed that the new Olympic Stadium “will only be delivered in April 2020,” according to IOC vice president John Coates.

Talk about cutting it close.

The IOC is saying all the right things now, but you have to believe that deep down it is very concerned about the fate of the project.

Best bet: It seems to me that if indeed a new Olympic Stadium is going to be constructed, one logical solution would be to put together a consortium of major Japanese companies to build it.

This was in part how the futuristic-looking Osaka Dome (now called Kyocera Dome) was built back in the mid 1990s.

Tokyo 2020 seems to be having no problem signing up domestic corporate sponsors.

Why not try to defray some of the costs for the stadium by starting a separate campaign for that?

Fearless forecast: One of my colleagues predicts that when all is said and done the total cost of the newer-designed Olympic Stadium will end up surpassing that of the original estimate.

I think he is probably right.

Can’t get it done: Golfer Ryo Ishikawa, who just a few short years ago was heavily hyped as a future PGA star, led the Quicken Loans National tournament hosted by Tiger Woods last Friday at the halfway point. But that was as good as it got for the Saitama native.

Ishikawa slumped over the weekend and finished 10th, seven shots behind American winner Troy Merritt. That in and of itself is no reason for disappointment, but a closer look at the numbers tells a different story.

The 23-year-old Ishikawa, who has been eclipsed by the play of Hideki Matsuyama the past few years, has now played in 116 PGA events and has yet to record a victory. He stands 189th in the world rankings, and except for the occasional blip seems to have become an afterthought.

Matsuyama, who is 15th in the world, is one of nine Japanese players ranked above Ishikawa, who has earned all 12 of his tournament victories in Japan.

Though the sample size is not nearly as large, Ishikawa’s record mirrors that of former great Jumbo Ozaki. The legendary Ozaki won a phenomenal 113 tournaments in his long career — all but one of them in Japan.

Ozaki’s lone victory overseas came at the 1972 New Zealand PGA Championship.

Long drought: It has now been 57 Grand Sumo tournaments since a Japanese wrestler lifted the Emperor’s Cup.

It sounds hard to believe, but it’s true.

The last Japanese wrestler to win one of the six annual tournaments was ozeki Tochiazuma back in January 2006. So it has been nearly 10 full years now.

Anybody who thinks sumo has sustained its popularity in Japan or is enjoying a resurgence needs to get real.

The glory days of the sport in the 1990s, with the likes of Akebono, Takanohana, Musashimaru and Wakanohana, seem like ancient history now.

With so many years of foreign domination in the sport, I think the time has come to devise a system whereby a Japanese wrestler is at least given a chance to make the final via a playoff.

I think the Japanese wrestler with the best record at the end of each tournament should go into a playoff against the foreign wrestler with the second-best mark for the right to meet the man in first place.

The reality is that without Japanese wrestlers in contention for the championship, interest will continue to decline.