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Make 2020 Tokyo model for sustainable Games

2017 Getty Images
03 Nov 2017
Olympic News, Tokyo 2020, Sustainability

By Toshiro Muto, chief executive officer of the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games

"This society is changing faster than ever. This society will not wait for sport to change ... We want to be the leaders of change, not the object of change," International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said three years ago. The circumstances surrounding the selection of the host cities of the Olympic and Paralympic Games - the IOC's most important task - are dramatically changing.

London won the bid to host the 2012 Games ahead of Paris, New York, Madrid and Moscow. For the 2016 Games, awarded to Rio de Janeiro, the cities of Baku, Chicago, Doha, Madrid, Prague and Tokyo joined the bid. For the 2020 Games, Tokyo competed against Istanbul and Madrid.

In recent years, however, concerns over the challenges host cities might face have increased the number of cities that withdrew from the race, even after announcing their candidacies. The 2024 Games bid race was contested by two cities. And in September, the IOC Session made a historic decision to award two consecutive Summer Games at the same time - to Paris for 2024 and to Los Angeles for 2028.

These days, the values and credibility of sports are at stake. The IOC reanalysis program - a doping retest of samples from the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Olympic Games - resulted in the withdrawal of a total of 75 medals. Seventy-five is a shocking figure, considering that there are about 300 events at the Olympic Games. Along with the doping, other issues around the integrity of sports, such as match-fixing and illegal betting, are also becoming increasingly serious issues across the globe.

The Tokyo 2020 Games are going to be held under these circumstances, when the values of the Olympic Games and sports face challenging times.

At the IOC Session three years ago, the Olympic Agenda 2020 was adopted. It constitutes a major reform driven by Bach, and the agenda is based on three pillars: "youth," "credibility" and "sustainability." This aligns with our vision, and the adoption of this new agenda has greatly accelerated the preparations for Tokyo 2020. A significant innovation is that under the new policy, host cities are allowed to host some events outside the city and make more use of existing venues in order to make the Games more sustainable.

At the time, the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee was conducting a thorough review of its own venue plan in conjunction with the Tokyo metropolitan government, following concerns that the venue-related costs were going to exceed the initial budget. The IOC's policy change turned out to be a timely boost, spurring international sports federations to work together with Tokyo 2020 to find cost reductions and ultimately agree to venue changes for their events. This has resulted in a reduction of more than ¥200 billion in venue costs, and our efforts that led to these savings are well recognized by the IOC.

In parallel to the preparation of venues, cost reduction has become a significant mission of the Tokyo 2020 Games. Some of the reports of expenses alleged to be in the Tokyo 2020 Games' original budget were without any foundation; in May this year a basic division of roles and allocation of costs for the Tokyo 2020 Games was agreed on by the Organizing Committee, the Tokyo metropolitan government, the national government and local governments of prefectures and cities hosting events. Excluding contingency, the total budget will be ¥1.385 trillion ($12.9 billion) - a significantly smaller amount than the ¥2.1 trillion cost of the London 2012 Games. We are closely cooperating with the IOC and each international and national federation for further cost reductions.

¥600 billion of the budget for the Organizing Committee will be privately funded such as the revenue from sponsorship. The cost to taxpayers - local, regional and national - will be just the remaining ¥785 billion. If we can deliver the Games effectively and demonstrate a truly sustainable event model, it can make an important contribution to the future of the Olympic Movement.

As soon as the Rio Games closed, there was a fair amount of public discussion about the cost of the Tokyo 2020 Games. Much of this overlooked the intangible values brought by the Games. A key driver for our All Japan bid in 2013 was a vision of bringing innovation and developing Japan's economy and society through the Olympic and Paralympic Games - so we believe the cost of staging the Games should be seen as an investment by the host city and country.

Don't forget intangible values

The Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 1964 helped to announce Japan's reemergence onto the global stage, and gave a strong boost to its then still-developing economy. Infrastructure such as the Shinkansen bullet trains and the Tokyo Metropolitan Expressway network was developed as part of the preparations for the Games, and these remain as a legacy and an important feature of our daily lives even today.

The Olympic Stadium and permanent venues located in the bay area and operated by the Tokyo metropolitan government are destined to become legacies that will enhance urban quality of life, especially in the area of sports, even after the Games. However, we believe we should focus on having a Tokyo 2020 Games that leaves intangible legacies for society in general, rather than just facilities and other tangible legacies.

The Tokyo 2020 Games will be a great opportunity to promote technological innovation in Japan. For example, we hope to be able to showcase the latest fuel cell vehicles and autonomous cars, information communication technology and cyber security, automatic multilingual translation, visitor guidance by digital signage, 3D visual technology giving spectators multiple viewing angles and the feeling of experiencing the action with the athletes on the field, and robots providing various services. We also want to create the means for spectators to share their feelings and emotions with each other via social media, something we think will enhance the appeal of all sporting events. These will also be intangible legacies of the Games.

The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games will spur universal design innovations for cities and housing and leave legacies in the living environment. We also believe that firsthand experience of the Tokyo 2020 Games will give children the opportunity to respect differences and learn about the concept of "unity in diversity" from the perspective of citizens of the world.

The Japanese people have national characteristics that accept diversity of ethnicity, culture and religion, and they developed through harmonizing the new with the old, and blending aspects of Japanese culture with Western ways of doing things. The Tokyo 2020 Games will be an opportunity to share traditional Japanese virtues and culture with the world.

The bid campaign for the Tokyo 2020 Games kicked off in the year the Great East Japan Earthquake struck the country. Contributing to the recovery efforts is one of our major themes. It was already decided that Ibaraki and Miyagi Prefectures, which were among the places affected by the earthquake and resulting tsunami, will host football matches during the competition's preliminary rounds, and we plan to hold the opening games of baseball and softball in Fukushima Prefecture. The route of the torch relay is currently being worked out, and we want to give it as much opportunity as possible to tour disaster-hit regions like Tohoku.

By hosting the Olympics and Paralympics we will have a great platform on which to show the world in 2020 the extent of the region's recovery in the 10 years that will have passed since the disaster. It will also be a wonderful chance to show our gratitude toward all those who assisted in the region's reconstruction.

The story of Olympic and Paralympic values and, more broadly, the values of sports will be conveyed from Japan to the world by the tourists and the media gathering here in 2020. The goal of the Tokyo 2020 Games will be to remind people that the values of sports are not limited to the world of sports but can change society itself for the better. If everyone pulls together and succeeds in this, the Tokyo 2020 Games will go down in history as a valuable and memorable event.

Article first published in the series "Insights into the world" - The Japan News by the Yomiuri Shimbun

Toshiro Muto is chairman of Daiwa Institute of Research Ltd., a post he has held since 2008, and chief executive officer of the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, a post he assumed in January 2014. He previously served as administrative vice minister of the Finance Ministry from 2000 to 2003 and deputy governor of the Bank of Japan from 2003 to 2008.

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