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Most major Japanese firms likely to take steps to beat Olympic congestion: Mainichi poll

The National Stadium, below, the main venue for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, is seen in this photo taken from a Mainichi Shimbun helicopter on Nov. 30, 2019. (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- More than 90% of major companies surveyed by the Mainichi Shimbun said they will likely take countermeasures against congestion in the capital during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, such as allowing telework and staggered work hours.

Many of the respondents also expressed concerns about a possible clash between two major economic powers, the United States and China, during the games, suggesting that 2020 could potentially be a stormy Olympic year.

The most serious challenge is countermeasures against traffic congestion in downtown Tokyo on the occasion of the Tokyo Games. The national government has designated July 24, 2020, the day when the games open, as a telework day, and is encouraging businesses to allow teleworking and take other measures to help ease congestion in the capital. Attention is also focused on whether the Olympics and Paralympics will help a flexible work working style take root in Japan.

The Mainichi Shimbun recently conducted the survey on 122 leading companies in Japan.

Of the respondents, 82, or 67%, replied that they will take some countermeasures to help ease congestion in Tokyo during the games, while 29 others, or 24% answered that they will consider taking such steps. Altogether, they account for more than 90% of the total.

Only seven firms, or 6%, responded that they are not taking any particular Olympics and Paralympics countermeasures. However, considering that the 122 responding companies include those that have no key business base in the capital, the survey outcome suggests that a rapidly growing number of businesses are implementing measures to help ease congestion in the capital during the games.

As specific measures, the largest percentage of businesses surveyed answered that they will allow telework, while many said they will encourage employees to work during staggered hours and take vacation during the Olympics and Paralympics periods.

Many of the respondent companies already have a flexible work-hour system, and will expand that to allow employees to work staggered hours.

Ricoh Co., a leading imaging and electronics company, replied that it will close its headquarters in Tokyo during the games and that some 2,000 employees will work outside the office.

Electronics giant NEC Corp. will obligate all employees to work from home in principle during a seven-day period in the first half of the Olympics and the whole company will take a weeklong summer break in the latter half. The company will also mandate employees to work from home during a one-week period in the first or latter half of the Paralympics, and encourage workers to take paid holidays.

Firms responding to the survey also said they will hold teleconferences, cancel or review their meetings and training sessions for employees and reduce non-essential, non-urgent business trips, among other measures.

Many companies in the food and convenience store industries said they will secure logistics networks apart from those they usually use. Suntory Holdings Ltd. said it will avoid using the Port of Tokyo for distribution of its products.

On the occasion of the London Olympics in 2012, 80% of companies in London allowed teleworking at the urging of the British government. Since the measure was effective in easing congestion in Britain's capital, there have been moves in Japan to introduce teleworking during the Tokyo 2020 Games.

(Japanese original by Satoko Takeshita, Tatsuya Michinaga, Takayuki Hakamada, Kenji Wada, Yusuke Matsukura and Shiho Fujibuchi, Business News Department)

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