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Editorial: More work needed to cut costs of Tokyo Olympics

Organizers of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics have decided to hold the rowing and canoe sprint events at Sea Forest Waterway to be built in the Tokyo bay area as initially planned.

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike made the proposal at a top-level meeting of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics organizing committee, the national government and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. The proposal was approved at the meeting.

Koike had suggested that she was enthusiastic about changing the planned venue to Naganuma Boat Race Course in Miyagi Prefecture, a region hit by the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, as a symbol of the Games being dedicated to disaster recovery. However, she gave up on the idea because the International Rowing Federation and the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics organizing committee pointed out that the Naganuma course is far from Tokyo.

Since Gov. Koike had been evoking positive emotions among Miyagi residents that the events would be held there, one cannot help but wonder if the latest decision has left locals with bitter feelings. Organizers are considering holding the elimination rounds of soccer, baseball and softball in disaster-hit areas. Organizers should lend their ear to the opinions of local residents on what should be done to make sure they can feel that the Olympics and Paralympics will contribute to disaster recovery.

The costs of constructing the Olympic Aquatics Center in Koto Ward, which will be the venue for swimming events, will be slashed by decreasing the seating capacity from the planned 20,000 to 15,000.

The Ariake Arena to be newly built for the 2020 Games, and the existing Yokohama Arena are candidates for the venue for volleyball. A final decision on the venues will be postponed until late December. The construction of the Ariake Arena is estimated to cost some 34 billion yen, while the expenses of remodeling and using the Yokohama Arena are expected to be approximately 700 million yen. It is necessary to take into consideration that the continued use of the Ariake Arena after the Olympics and Paralympics is difficult in terms of its profitability in deciding on the venue for volleyball.

Shortly after taking office earlier this year, Gov. Koike set up an administrative reform headquarters to reconsider the budget for the Olympics and Paralympics among other matters. It later turned out that the cost of holding the Games would exceed 3 trillion yen if the original plan were to remain as it is, prompting the governor to fundamentally review the plan, such as by changing three venues including one for the rowing and canoe sprint events, which would cost massive amounts of money, to substitute facilities.

Some critics pointed out that Gov. Koike's objection to the plan on the venues for the Games, which the IOC had already approved, is a violation of the metropolitan government's earlier pledge and caused confusion in preparations for the Games.

Still, her action is significant in that it has raised the public's interest in the costs of organizing the Olympics and Paralympics and sparked moves toward cutting expenses.

At the top-level meeting open to the press, the organizing committee announced that it estimates that the total costs of holding the Games will be about 2 trillion yen. However, the IOC emphasized that 2 trillion yen has not necessarily been recognized as the upper limit. Since most of the costs are covered by taxpayers' money, the plan should be reviewed in a bid to further cut back on expenses.

Furthermore, the organizing committee has pledged to promote information disclosure in an effort to strengthen its governance and increase transparency over its budget management. The pledge appears to have come a bit too late, but the committee should steadily carry out its promise.

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