The $2 billion price tag for the new National Stadium in Tokyo proved to be too high. The Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, faced down the president of the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and former prime minister, Yoshiro Mori, and send the committee back to the drawing board. This decision effectively removed the possibility of the stadium debuting for the 2019Rugby World Cup, according to this Japan Times article.
All we see is the pomp and circumstance. But waiting for the start of the opening ceremony of an Olympics Games can be a dull and tiring affair.
As 400-meter individual medley swimmer, Dick Roth, wrote, after getting bussed to a large staging area on a beautiful Autumn day on October 10, 1964, all they did was wait. “We milled around for hours in our new uniforms, awaiting our turn to march in, not daring to sit down in our white pants or skirts. That part really wasn’t fun.”
The American, Roth, won gold in his event, so the wait was worth it. But if an Olympian’s event is in the day’s following the opening ceremony, they are often encouraged not to participate in the team march into the stadium. That’s what American diver, Frank Gorman, was advised.
“The diving events began the day after,” the silver medalist in the 3-meter springboard told me. “So we were cautioned by our coaches to not go. We stayed in the Village dormitories. By that time, we were so pleased that the coaches advised us to stay. You had to go five hours in advance and stand outside waiting for things to get organized. They spent 8 or 12 hours participating in the ceremonies. We would have been worn out.”
And yet, for many Olympians, it’s an experience of a life time. Wrote Roth, “It was overwhelming really – bright blue sky, the entire stadium filled with 75,000 applauding, cheering people, all of us athletes standing in formation on the field. The track was ringed with Japanese, dancing in colorful costumes. The Emperor was standing and waving. Flags and more flags. Did you ever wonder what’s going through an athlete’s mind during the Opening Ceremonies? In my case, nothing besides a bucketful of awe!”
The sun rises every morning. And there are cost overruns at every Olympics.
Yes, people are shocked at the JPYY252 billion (USD2 billion) budget estimate declared upon presentation of the blueprint of the new National Stadium. This is a 55% increase over an earlier estimate.
But the truth is, national olympic committees know they need to provide lower overall cost estimates to win a bid, with the unspoken understanding that costs will be higher, often significantly. In the case of the new national stadium, dubbed somewhat unceremoniously as the “bicycle helmet”, the roof’s arches are of such a complicated design that its construction alone accounts for JPY76.5 billion (USD620 million) or 30% of the entire budget.
What’s even more interesting, according to this Japan Times article, is that the Japan Sports Council, an advisory panel within the Education Ministry is the owner of the stadium construction project, and not necessarily in synch with leaders of that Ministry.
Then again, politics as usual.