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Editorial: Slash ballooning budget for 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Paralympics

An Olympics and Paralympics investigative team of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government's administrative reform headquarters estimates in an interim report that the total cost of holding the 2020 Tokyo Games could exceed 3 trillion yen. The figure is more than four times the amount estimated when Tokyo was bidding to host the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics -- some 730 billion yen. The new estimate, made based on the 2012 London games which cost Britain some 2 trillion yen, apparently came as a surprise even to those who are hoping that the games will be successful.

Numerous members of the general public are worried about the costs of holding the Games, most of which are covered by taxpayers. Yoshiro Mori, president of the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, has recently mentioned that the costs could reach 2 to 3 trillion yen due to rising construction material prices and personnel expenses as a result of reconstruction work following the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami and stepped up terrorism countermeasures. However, the organizing committee that is supposed to play a leading role in preparing and organizing the Games has not provided a detailed explanation of the costs.

The interim report, which has been released to respond to questions by the public as to how much it will cost to hold the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, mentions not only the total costs but also the specific division of roles between the organizing committee, the Tokyo metropolitan and national governments. The contents of the report are worth considering.

A candidate file that Japan's bidding committee submitted to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) stated that the Tokyo Metropolitan Government would build permanent facilities while the central government would be responsible for the construction of temporary facilities. However, the organizing committee, whose income is only about 500 billion yen from the private sector, cannot cover the costs. As such, the organizing committee insisted that the Tokyo Metropolitan Government should shoulder all of some 150 billion yen necessary to build temporary facilities.

To reduce expenses, the interim report urges the metropolitan government to change three of the seven planned permanent facilities to substitute facilities. For example, the report recommends that the venue for the rowing and canoe sprint events be changed from the planned Sea Forest Waterway to the Naganuma Boat Race Course in Miyagi Prefecture, which was hit by the 2011 disasters. The Naganuma course has hosted international competitions. If these events are to be held at Naganuma, it would be consistent with the spirit of holding the Olympics to contribute to the restoration of areas hit hard by the 2011 quake and tsunami.

However, the organizing committee needs to negotiate with international sports associations and gain approval from the IOC to change the sites for Olympic events. Mori has expressed reluctance to accept the changes in planned sites. However, the IOC accepted Japan's earlier decision to retract a specific plan on the new National Stadium, which will be the main venue for the 2020 Games.

In the interim report, the investigation team points out that it is unclear specifically who controls the preparations for and organizing of the Olympics and Paralympics, comparing the current system to a company without a president and treasurer. In other words, various divisions demand the allocation of funds that they think they will need without setting a ceiling on the total amount, causing the total budget to snowball. An organization to manage the budget and personnel in an integrated manner is needed.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government intends to review a plan to build the four other permanent facilities. To hand over such facilities to future generation as a legacy, it is necessary to slash the ballooning budget to appropriate levels so that the facilities will not leave a negative legacy for future generations.

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