Tokyo Big Site in Odaiba
Tokyo Big Site in Odaiba

There were fears at one stage that costs of the Tokyo2020 Olympics would balloon to some USD30 billion, which would approach the USD40 billion that was spent on the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

While it is unlikely that cost estimates will drop to the initial budget of USD7.5 billion, the amount presented to the selection commission of the IOC at the bid presentation, the IOC and the organizers of Tokyo2020 are hoping to get the costs below USD 15 billion.

Currently, costs estimates for Tokyo2020 are JPY1.8 trillion or nearly USD16 billion. But there are always hidden costs, or at least costs not spoken about openly, like cost overruns. In this March 2017 article, The Japan Times cites Asahi Shimbun, which reported that “the original bid estimate for constructing new Olympic venues was ¥499 billion and that is now ¥680 billion. Transportation costs have increased from ¥23.3 billion to ¥140 billion, security from ¥20.5 billion to ¥160 billion and ‘software’ expenses from ¥257 billion to ¥520 billion.”

Currently, organizers intend to host the media and broadcasting center for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics at Tokyo Big Sight, which is a large convention center in the Odaiba waterfront district. To accommodate the Olympics, plans include closing off the convention center to all trade shows from April 2019 to November 2020. In a January, 2017 article, The Japan Times cites The Japan Exhibition Association, which claims that the shut down could translate to more than ¥1 trillion in lost sales and affect 1,000 companies associated with the exhibition industry, including booth decorators and logistics firms, if exhibitions are canceled or downsized.

It’s a “matter of life and death,” said Masato Suzuki, deputy general manager of Tokyo-based manufacturer Sanko Tsusho Co. Ltd.’s inspection equipment department. “We small and midsize firms don’t want the Olympics if it means canceling or scaling down exhibitions. It’s by far our most important business opportunity,” he said, adding that about 70 percent of his company’s sales are generated by clients established at the exhibitions.

In a May, 2017 article in Japan Today, it was reported that the city government may be losing a fight to get the national and regional governments to pick up part of the costs of refurbishing sports venues or building temporary sports venues in locales outside Tokyo. As an example of possible costs unanticipated by the organizers in Tokyo, the governor of Kanagawa is looking to add to the bill. Enoshima, the intended venue for sailing events, is a part of Kanagawa prefecture. Governor Yuji Kuroiwa believes his prefecture will have to compensate fishermen who will be prevented from fishing during the Olympic Games, and thus will lose revenue.

Very often, organizers cite the increase in tourism revenues for a city and country hosting the Olympics. But that argument is countered by economist, Andrew Zimbalist, in his book, Circus Maximus – The Economic Gamble Behind Hosting the Olympics and the World Cup. He explained in his book that at big tent events like the Olympics or the World Cup, tourism actually falls.

Still another problem is that when a foreign soccer fan spends $100 at a Brazilian restaurant during the World Cup competition, it might not be a net gain for the Brazilian economy. This is because between June 12 and July 13, 2014, there may have been tens or hundreds of thousands of people (tourists or businesspeople) who would otherwise have traveled to Brazil but instead chose to avoid the congestion, tight security, and high prices during the World Cup and either went elsewhere or stayed home.

This plays out in real life: tourism in Beijing fell during the 2008 Summer Games, as it did in London during the 2012 Olympics. That is, even counting the athletes, the media, the administrators, and the Olympic tourists, the total number of visitors to these cities fell during the month of the Olympic Games. Further, some local residents may have the same impulse that foreigners have: they believe their city or country will be excessively crowded and expensive during the mega-event and that the period of the competition would be a good time to take a vacation outside the country. The amount of outbound tourism from China grew by 12 percent in 2008, the year China hosted the Summer Olympics.

Will the pride that comes with hosting a successful Olympics, and the legacy infrastructure of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics outweigh the hidden costs of running the biggest show on earth? That’s the debate that’s taking place as we head towards September 13 and the IOC meeting in Lima, Peru, when IOC members gather to decide on the fates of Paris and Los Angeles.

Roy with 1964 Tokyo Olympic Torch
Roy with 1964 Tokyo Olympic Torch
The Olympians has been a labor of love for exactly two years. It is my sketchbook as I prepare for the mural masterpiece, a book on the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

While my book’s focus is on the XVIII Tokyo Olympiad, I use my blog as an excuse to write about anything even remotely related to these areas: the Tokyo Olympics, the Olympics overall, Japan, and sports in general. In other words, I think of my blog as therapy for a restlessly curious mind.

How else could I go 730 straight days without missing a post?

Enjoy!

Japan 1964

 

Tokyo 2020

 

Random Rambles

Roy's 2nd Birthday
Roy’s 2nd Birthday
It’s been exactly two years since I started my journey to understand the context, the organization and the stories of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. My father was at those games as a news producer for NBC, and I turned one years old on Opening Day.

I moved to Tokyo for a third time in January, 2014, excited by Tokyo’s selection as the host city for the 2020 Summer Games. Surprised to find not a single book on the 1964 Tokyo Olympics in English, I endeavored to write the definitive record. On May 1, 2015, I started my blog, The Olympians is in many ways, the first draft of my book.

All, thank you for your wonderful comments and support!

 

Olympians 1964

 

Amazing Olympians

opening ceremonies 2017 Sapporo Asian Winter Games
Opening ceremonies 2017 Sapporo Asian Winter Games

The Olympics could be back in Japan in 2026.

Eight years after the Summer Olympics were held in Tokyo in 1964, the Winter Olympics were held in Sapporo. It’s possible that Sapporo could become the host again of the Winter Olympics, this time only 6 years after the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

Sapporo hosted the 8th Asian Winter Games from February 17 to 24 in 2017, and by many accounts, was a major success. A record 32 nations, and over 1,200 athletes attended the nine-day Games. And despite the cloud of doping over every major sporting championship, the OCA’s Medical Committee and Anti-Doping Commission gave the Asian Winter Games a huge stamp of approval – no positive drug tests.

2017 Asian Winter Games logo“The Medical Committee and Anti-Doping Commission of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) is delighted to announce the absence of any adverse analytical findings for doping during the recent 8th Sapporo Asian Winter Games,” Tan Sri Dr. Jegathesan, chairman of the OCA Medical Committee and Anti-Doping Commission, said in a statement. “This allows the Games to earn the accolade ‘Clean Games’. All lab reports were negative,” he confirmed.

IOC President, Thomas Bach, also welcomes a bid from Sapporo, and was not concerned that a Sapporo selection would mean a succession of Olympics in Asia (ie: 2018 in PyeongChang, Korea, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan, and 2022 in Beijing, China).

“We have always in the IOC a kind of informal rotation of Olympic host cities, but we also have to see in the past this was very much Europe-centered. And now with the real globalization of the world, the growing importance of Asia, not only in sport but in all areas of life, I think it is more or less normal that we have more Olympic Games taking place in Asia.”

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Sakura-machi Park, Koganei_April 2004

Spring is here.

In Tokyo, you know because wherever you go, you are blessed by the blossom.

Unfortunately, the IOC does not entertain the idea of the Spring Olympics, so the image of youthful athletes running through a flurry of falling blossom petals will have to await a fictionalized Hollywood vision.

 

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Naka-Meguro Station_March, 2014

 

The Summer Games are almost always held in July or August, probably because by now that is a period most other major sporting organizations would avoid for a meet or a championship. Summer Games have been held in October to avoid typhoons (Tokyo) and the heat (Mexico City), and they have been held in November and December (Melbourne) because it is summer down under in those months.

But the very first modern Olympic Games, in Athens Greece, were held in the Spring. The first re-boot of the Games were played from April 6 to 15, 1896. So today is the 121st anniversary of the start of the first Olympic Games.

Sakura Kinshicho Park
Kinshicho Park_April 2017

And just as Spring is the best time to visit Greece, you can say the same for Japan. Not only for the incredible food. But also for the eye candy that is the cherry blossom tree. I’ve been in Japan for over 18 years – I never get tired of staring out into a sea of pale pink, or strolling by a lone cherry tree. Even the very first budding of flower on a cool March morning brings delight and warmth.

The cherry blossom, and its representations of youth and beauty, accentuated by its relatively fleeting existence, is an icon of Japan, so much so that it was a powerful emblem in Tokyo’s bid for the 2020 Olympics.

So if you want to see Japan at its best, come during the cherry blossom season.

sakura blossom

Sakura 2017: The best places to see cherry blossoms in Japan

20 Of The Best Pictures Of 2014’s Japanese Cherry Blossoms

Japanese hanami lovers reveal the top ten things to bring on a cherry blossom viewing picnic

Airbnb in Hokkaido
Airbnb listings for Hokkaido, Japan

The Silicon Valley home-sharing accommodation business has faced first-mover angst. While customers seeking cheaper, more varied accommodations are using Airbnb more and more, the hotel industry in particular is pushing back, lobbying local governments to put a stop to these unregulated competitors.

Even in San Francisco, its home base, Airbnb faces pressure from the government to prove that the Airbnb hosts are indeed residences of the rooms they rent out, not companies that own various condos or houses and rent out rooms like hotels.

But Airbnb, while it has faced push back from authorities, have just been given a very bright green light in Japan. On Friday, March 10, the cabinet of Prime Minister of Shinzo Abe “approved rules…limiting home-sharing by private citizens to 180 days a year,” according to The Japan Times. Prior to this, hosting a room in your home to rent was essentially illegal in Japan.

The impact will be significant. According to this report, hotel vacancies in Tokyo are currently limited, as occupancy rates in recent years have consistently been over 80%, which has allowed the average daily rate (ADR) to climb significantly. With foreign tourist numbers expected to climb, and with the inevitable spikes in demand for hotel rooms for the World Rugby Cup scheduled for Tokyo in 2019 and the Olympics scheduled for Tokyo in 2020, there is continued fear of angry visitors from outside Tokyo and Japan screaming for hotel rooms, certainly with hopes of less expensive options.

Japan Hotel Performance 2007 to 2015

But also significantly, this is an opportunity to expand the number of accommodations available to travelers in the more remote parts of Japan where corporations are reluctant to invest, as well as put tourist money into the pockets of rural folks whose towns have been hollowed out by loss of youth, and a lack of energy to continue with the labor intensive agricultural business.

Japan hand, Terrie Lloyd, believes Airbnb Japan is going to grow the number of room listings significantly thanks to this law, which is expected to be passed easily in the not so distant future. And he believes the impact will be great:

  • People owning homes in areas under served by hotels (pick almost any countryside area in Japan) will now be able to step into the breech and offer accommodation with little/no development cost. This will significantly increase the flow of tourists out to more remote areas, which of course will be a shot in the arm for local economies.
  • 180 days a year means that the average household out in the countryside could make up to JPY900,000 or so a year (JPY5,000 average per night) that would have been impossible otherwise – and with very little outlay – thus offering a low barrier to entry per household.
  • There will be a regional property boom, at least in those areas which have visually attractive tourist assets, and this will encourage other regions who haven’t preserved their traditions to do more conservation work to pull visitors.
  • There will be a rebuilding boom, as relatives of hospitalized elderly and the recently deceased start to realize that instead of allowing a home to decay into a rotting ruin, it can be restored and rented out to local and foreign tourists.
  • There will be a surge in demand for rental cars, as the proximity of accommodation to the train station no longer determines where you want to travel.
  • There will be a surge in demand for services to maintain rooms and to look after foreign guests.

When I saw the CEO of Airbnb give a talk last year, I remember him waxing poetic about the possibilities for the graying countryside of Japan, where curious foreigners meet elderly entrepreneurs who gain a financial reward, and perhaps a personal reward in opening their homes up to the world.

Samurai Surfing

My friends know this: I’m addicted to Nissin Cup Ramen.

There’s something about the aroma after I’ve waited that obligatory 3-minutes for the hot water to soften the noodles and bind the various spices and ingredients in a flavor that instantly gratifies me. This is not a universal addiction to Cup Noodle. It has to be made in Japan – the ones manufactured elsewhere are probably catering to local tastes, and to my palate, pale in comparison.

I don’t believe they manufacture the King Size version anymore, but if they did, I’d buy.

Nissin Cup Ramen also tends to have the coolest commercials. One released in November, 2016 is not only super fun, it is appealing to the same demographic the Tokyo 2020 Olympics are trying to appeal to. In a somewhat tenuous take on The Seven Samurai, Nissin created a commercial that features athletes decked out in traditional armour that the West now associate with the warrior class known as the samurai.

And the seven featured in this commercial are magnificent! They surf, they skateboard, they pogo-stick over street vendors, they spin on their bikes, do acrobatic twists on skis to the amazement of the bewildered crows around them.

Over the decades, the IOC has worked with host countries to appeal to the youth, and ensure a market for their product for years to come. The X-Games, an ESPN-sponsored event featuring extreme sports, drove up the popularity of skateboarding and freestyle motocross. Thanks to growing popularity of these youth-driven activities, snowboarding became an Olympic sport in 1998, while BMX cycling debuted at the 2008 Olympics.

Tokyo 2020 will feature a bevy of new competitions that the organizers hope will build a new generation of Olympic fans, including surfing, skateboarding, and sports climbing.

Samura bike tricks