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Editorial: Japan must prioritize environmental protection for Tokyo Olympics

Environmental protection is being prioritized in the ongoing Rio de Janeiro Olympics. During the opening ceremony, there was a performance in which tree seeds given to athletes in the entrance procession grew into green Olympic rings. Through the performance, organizers sent the international community a message urging people all over the world to plant green plants to protect the global environment amid ongoing global warming.

    At the Rio Olympics, only 10 of the 37 venues were newly constructed. After the Games is over, a newly built golf course will be converted into a regular golf course for the public, while the venue for handball games will be dismantled and transformed into an elementary school. The facilities built for the Olympics will not be wasted after the Games. The Olympic cauldron was reportedly made smaller than usual to reduce the use of fossil fuel. These are part of the organizers' efforts to protect the environment.

    The Olympics is a transient event held every four years. Nevertheless, a massive amount of resources and energy is used to prepare for and organize the Games. For that reason, organizers are attaching particular importance to minimizing the Olympics' impact on the environment by expanding the use of renewable energy and recycling materials used in the Games.

    The organizing committee of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics is also seeking to organize the Games in a sustainable way. On top of giving consideration to the environment, the committee should also share with the world its experience of making fresh efforts in hosting the quadrennial event in a sustainable manner.

    The sustainability of the Olympics drew particular attention during the 2012 London Games. Prior to the event, organizers worked out standards for procuring building materials for the Games and foodstuffs served at the athletes' village while taking sustainability into account. Specific goals for reducing waste and greenhouse gas emissions had also been set in advance. Efforts to achieve sustainability at the ongoing Rio Olympics are also in line with this trend.

    Earlier this month, the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games announced a draft plan for organizing the Games that gives consideration to the environment. Specifically, the organizing committee has set a goal of achieving deeper cuts in greenhouse gas emissions and generating less waste than in the past Games. Even though the spirit behind the overall draft plan seems good, the proposal stops short of setting any numerical targets.

    The organizing committee needs to swiftly flesh out a plan with more specifics. In doing so, criteria for procuring building and other materials and foodstuffs are particularly important.

    As the first round of these efforts, the organizing committee has shown the criteria for procuring lumber to be used for the construction of stadiums and other facilities. Specifically, the criteria require wood used for relevant facilities to meet the standards provided for by laws and regulations in its countries of origin and sufficient consideration to be given to the ecosystem and the rights of indigenous inhabitants in lumbering.

    However, the criteria for the procurement of relevant materials apply to only projects undertaken by the organizing committee. However, the construction of facilities that are funded by the national or Tokyo metropolitan governments, such as the new National Stadium, is not subject to the criteria. However, it is unreasonable that the criteria do not apply to the key facilities. All relevant facilities should conform with the organizing committee's procurement criteria.

    Tokyo's ability to demonstrate to the international community that sufficient consideration is being given to organizing the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics is being tested.

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