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Lack of governance, leadership causing ballooning costs for Tokyo Olympics: report

An interim report on expenses and preparations for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics submitted by an investigative team at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government on Sept. 29 referred to the lack of governance in the planning of the 2020 Games, with a member of the panel calling the project "a business without a president or treasurer."

"The preparations for the games lack a leader who can set limits on the overall budget and present a vision on how to alter plans," said Keio University professor Shinichi Ueyama, a member of the Olympics and Paralympics investigative team at the metropolitan government's administrative reform headquarters, criticizing the system that keeps the responsibilities of Tokyo, the organizing committee and the state unclear. He added, "No one is calculating how much it would cost. It's like a business without a president or treasurer."

While the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games is responsible for the preparations and operation of the events in 2020, the metropolitan government guarantees debts by contributing 5.85 billion yen, or 97.5 percent of the basic capital for the games, as the host city. Tokyo also had sent 245 employees, or 33 percent of the organizing committee staff, to work for the body as of Aug. 1 this year. If there is a shortage of funds, the metropolitan government will cover the difference, and if that's still not enough, then the state will pitch in.

Professor Ueyama says the organizing committee has prepared some kind of legacy planning to represent the overall project, but it fails to disclose the total costs of hosting the games or the breakdown of expenses. He also criticized the lack of leadership for a coordination council, tasked with reviewing the cost sharing among concerned parties, whose members include the organizing committee chairman and the Tokyo governor, saying, "It's based on a collegial system and there is no chairperson. It has only held a few meetings and it's not functioning."

Meanwhile, the interim report proposed that the metropolitan government instruct and supervise the organizing committee over its spending and overall management as the metropolitan government bears accountability for its finances to the people of Tokyo.

In response to the report, organizing committee president Yoshiro Mori told Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike at the Sept. 29 coordination council meeting that the committee would give back 5.7 billion yen of the 5.85 billion yen basic capital. Since the Local Autonomy Act and its enforcement orders impose an obligation on an organization that operates with 25 percent or more capital contributions from a local government to be reviewed by the head of that local body, if the organizing committee returns the money it will be off the hook for such a requirement. Koike, however, said she has not agreed to Mori's proposal.

A source related to the national government says of the situation regarding the operation of the Tokyo Games, "It's the same as the new Olympic Stadium mess."

In the initial proposal for the new stadium, the main venue for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, the cost of construction was estimated to be some 130 billion yen, but it has since soared to 252 billion yen. The cause behind this miscalculation was the established system that made it unclear where responsibility lies.

The unclear role-sharing among the state, the metropolitan government and the organizing committee, including how much of the costs each party will shoulder for the games, has long been pointed out. While the three parties have been holding working-level negotiations on adjusting the divisions of their roles, no solution has come up since the Tokyo governor changed recently.

Meiji University professor and former Tokyo Vice Gov. Yasushi Aoyama says the organizing committee lacks governance capacity. "The ballooning costs stem from questionable calculations in the first place. Tokyo should lead the project and take responsibility for the games since it is the organization that is spending a lot of money and dispatching many workers."

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