IOC Vice President John Coates and President of Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic organising committee Yoshiro Mori attend a news conference in Tokyo
International Olympic Committee (IOC) Vice President John Coates (L) and President of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic organizing committee Yoshiro Mori attend a news conference in Tokyo on Wednesday. Photo: REUTERS

The budget for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics ballooned from $7.5 billion, presented during the bid process in 2013, to $30 billion a few years later.

Conscious of the distaste the citizens of most major cities have for holding an Olympic Games, the International Olympic Committee has been working hard to get the Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee to slash the budget. Currently it stands around $12 billion. But John Coates, who is the head of the IOC’s Coordination Commission for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, wants to get the number down further.

“That’s the target that we think should be achievable not just by Tokyo but by all summer organizing committees,” said Coates, referring to the new goal of $11 billion. “What we are trying to do is create a situation where there is no strain on the public purse.”

A likely target of the budget knife is the Olympic Village, where Coates believes that the level of service can be diminished enough to reduce the budget significantly.

For example, The Washington Post said Coates gave an example of “shortening the length of time athletes are allowed to stay,” or to make beds transferrable, “which would mean shuffling athletes or team staff out early to make room for those who might be competing later in the Games.”

Another example, explained in Japan Today, is cutting staff for the Olympic family lounges, which according to Coates, operate at only 40% capacity on average.

However, Rich Perelman, editor of the Sports Examiner calls Coates out on the challenge of trying to nickle-and-dime down the costs of the Olympic Village by focusing on service. He points to the fact that the number of athletes have risen every Olympics since 2004. The Rio Olympics hosted 11,238 athletes, well over the 10,500 recommended in the Olympic Charter.

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics are expected to have a higher count. And while there are hints that the IOC wants the various national olympic committees to cut the number of participating athletes and officials, Perelman points out that the IOC is contributing to the increased headcount by encouraging the introduction of new sports, like surfing, sport climbing and skateboarding.

The IOC and the Tokyo 2020 organizers are further complicit in exacerbating the costs for the coming Games by adding – unnecessarily – five sports, 18 events and 474 more athletes (not to mention support staff – to the Games program because the events will supposedly “appeal to youth.”

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Governor Yuriko Koike
Governor Yuriko Koike

Before Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike came on the scene, the projected overruns for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic budget was expected to take the overall budget to USD30 billion.

Soon after Governor took office, she stated she was determined to cut that budget down to size, vowing not to strap Tokyo taxpayers with any “white elephants”. In partnership with the International Olympic Committee, which feared that ballooning costs would further discourage cities from bidding for Olympics in the future, Koike began asking a lot of questions about the budget.

The IOC then encouraged that a four-party group be created to drive the budget down. For the past year, members of the IOC, Tokyo 2020, Governor Koike and representations from the Japanese national government have been working to ensure a budget of USD15 billion or less. On May 31, 2017, Tokyo2020 organizers that the budget has been reduced to USD12.9 billion, according to Around the Rings.

In comparison to another mature city, the 2012 London Olympics ended up costing USD19 billion.

One of the major hurdles of finalizing the budget was determining who would fund the construction of temporary facilities in venues outside Tokyo, where events like baseball and soccer would be played, for example. In the recently agreed-upon budget, local governments in seven prefectures (Hokkaido, Miyagi, Fukushima, Saitama, Chiba, Kanagawa and Shizuoka) and four cities (Sapporo, Saitama, Chiba and Yokohama) will pay only for costs related to “medical services and security transportation to and from venues, but that Tokyo will cover costs for temporary facilities for venues outside of the Japanese capital”, according to Inside the Games.

Another potentially very good decision by the four-party task force, according to this Tokyo 2020 document, was to create a committee made up members of the four parties to monitor costs. This Management Committee for Collaborative Projects will look to optimize resources and further reduce costs with reviews held on a regular basis.