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Editorial: Japan gov't must scrutinize Olympic Games' spending as costs soar

The Board of Audit of Japan has released an estimate that the government is spending 1.06 trillion yen (about $9.76 billion) on the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games and related projects.

This is a far cry from the initial slogan of delivering a "compact games."

As it stands, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government is set to foot 1.41 trillion yen while the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games will cover 600 billion yen. Altogether, the 2020 Games are projected to ultimately cost over 3 trillion yen. Yet total spending is expected to swell even further, as the costs for relocating the marathon and race walk venues from Tokyo to Sapporo, the capital of the northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido, have yet to be determined.

While the Tokyo Games had initially been estimated to cost roughly 730 billion yen when the capital made a successful bid to host the quadrennial event, the ultimate total spending is projected to increase fourfold.

The overall cost is broken down into spending directly covering the 2020 Games and related outlays for road improvements and other works, the latter of which keeps snowballing. Although the national government has earmarked 219.7 billion yen in its budget for the summer games during the seven-year period up to fiscal 2019, the Board of Audit considers that there are other projects related to the games.

While the audit board's survey covered 340 projects, there are other undertakings over which the government and the board remain at odds when it comes to whether they should be covered by related expenditures. Those projects include the provision of subsidies for introducing fuel-cell industrial vehicles to bring about a hydrogen society and support for efforts to distribute footage overseas of Japan's local agricultural products and cuisine culture.

Preparations for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics are underway as part of a state project. One is tempted to wonder if government ministries and agencies have taken advantage of the opportunity to apply for the approval of numerous other projects. The government must take the issues raised by the Board of Audit seriously.

Even the costs for directly covering the Tokyo Games are soaring to 1.35 trillion yen. While the Tokyo organizing committee is expected to shortly announce the latest budget projections, we must not allow any further budget escalation.

Another source of concern is how the facilities built for the 2020 Games are to be used after the event is over. With regard to the new Japan National Stadium, which was recently completed, formulation of a plan to sell the management rights to a private business operator after the games has been deferred. If there are no prospects of a new operator being secured, the Japan Sport Council, which owns the facility, will have to manage the stadium. However, "Toto" soccer lottery tickets, used as a resource to fund the arena, have seen a downturn in sales.

The Olympic and Paralympic Games are ever growing in terms of size and costs, making the event only viable in world-famous big cities. The number of cities making bids to host the games is on the decline, boosting a sense of crisis within the International Olympic Committee.

Come next year, preparations for the Tokyo Games will enter a final stage for review. The government is urged to once again scrutinize how much the games are costing taxpayers and try to prevent the event from becoming unnecessarily oversized.

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