Odaiba Beach

We were shocked when we read about the levels of water pollution in Guanabara Bay that sailors and rowers competed in, and saw the waters of the diving pool turn a sickly green during the 2016 Rio Olympics.

And yet, here we are a year later, and we learn of the significantly polluted waters of Tokyo Bay, the intended site for triathletes and open-water swimmers.

According to Inside the Games, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government conducted a water quality test in Tokyo Bay over a 21-day period, which is a sample size as long as the actual Games themselves. The results, which were shared at an October gathering of the IOC Coordination Commission in Tokyo, showed “levels of E. Coli up to 20 times above the accepted limit and faecal coliform bacteria seven times higher than the permitted levels.

This Asahi News article quoted organizers as saying that “an inflow of raw sewage caused below-standard water quality in more than half of tests conducted.” Officials explained that “heavy rain caused overcapacity at sewage processing plants, and some of the untreated sewage flowed into Tokyo Bay,” and that “they are considering such measures as installing triple layers of a screen that can block the flow of coli bacillus.

 

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Sign at Tokyo Bay’s Odaiba Marine Park listing prohibitions, including one against swimming.

 

Is there any consideration to move the venue for the triathlon and the open-water swimming events?

Sports Director of the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee, Koji Murofushi, shut that idea down, stating that “measures will be taken so that we can provide an excellent environment for the sports.”

The truth of the matter is, there have been signs in the area planned for the Olympic events for years warning people not to swim in the bay. Will the organizers figure out to clean up this act? We’re a little more than a thousand days away. Tick tock.

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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.”

 

Muirfield Golf Club
Muirfield Golf Club

 

The oldest golf club in the world, Muirfield Golf Club, located in Scotland, the birthplace of golf, recently decided to provide women the opportunity to have equal membership with male members. It took 273 years, but as Virginia Slims once proclaimed, “You’ve come a long way, baby.”

This change in policy came after the famed golf club was denied the chance to host the British Open golf championship because of its membership rules. Other clubs like R&A, The Royal St George’s and Royal Troon in Scotland, Augusta National in the USA, and most recently the Royal Adelaide Golf Club in Australia have changed their membership policies to allow for full membership to women.

But the Kasumigaseki Country Club in Saitama, not far from Tokyo, has stuck to its guns despite significant pressure to offer equal membership rights to women. Currently, female members of the Kasumigaseki C. C. are not considered full members, and are not allowed to play on Sundays. Ordinarily, this particular policy would go unnoticed if not for the fact that Kasumigaseki C. C. was selected to be the Olympic venue for golf during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike fired the first salvo in January when she said she felt “very uncomfortable that women cannot become full members in the 21st century.”

More recently, International Olympic Committee Vice President, John Coates, said that “Image-wise, our position is clear. We will only go to a club that has non-discrimination.”

Coates went on to reveal that discussions with the Kasumigaseki Country Club have been positive, and that “It’s heading in the right direction for them to have a nondiscriminatory membership procedure. It would appear that we should be able to have this result by the end of June.”

So will Kasumigaseki Country Club end up par for the course, or will they shank their last drive and lose out on this golden opportunity at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics?

 

UPDATE: On March 20, 2017, the 15 board members of the Kasumigaseki Golf Club, all men, voted unanimously to overturn restrictions on full membership for women.