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Editorial: A full accounting of the Tokyo Olympics must be the next step

  • August 7, 2021
  • , The Asahi Shimbun , 1:55p.m.
  • English Press

The Tokyo Summer Olympic Games wind up on Aug. 8.


A huge sum of taxpayers’ money was spent to stage the event. In an unusual development, the Games, initially scheduled to be held in July and August 2020, were postponed for a year due to the novel coronavirus crisis.


But officials eventually decided to go ahead with the Games under a revised timetable, although public opinion was divided on the wisdom of holding them while the pandemic rages.


The central and Tokyo metropolitan governments, along with the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic organizing committee, have a duty to sort out the issues that have been raised, critically review the responses they took and present their findings to the Japanese public and the world.


The reviews, of course, should not be self-serving. The Diet should also keep a watchful eye in living up to its mission to monitor the executive branch of government.

After a failed bid to host the 2016 Summer Games, Tokyo in 2011 decided to make another bid for the 2020 Summer Games.


A number of questions and concerns have since been raised, such as suspected bribery related to the Olympic bid and a breakdown of the expenses for the Games that only kept swelling. But no convincing explanation has ever been given for many of them.


The Tokyo Games were initially billed as marking a rebuilding from the Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima nuclear disaster of 2011. That concept, however, ended up being swept under the rug.


All these issues highlighted the same vicious practice that has characterized Japanese politics of recent years–sidestepping any inconvenient questions and accumulating facts after the fact, without ever making it clear where the responsibility lies.


For example, former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe proudly said that he took the initiative in deciding to delay the Games for a year. But his successor, Yoshihide Suga, has pretended to be an outsider by insisting that the Games are organized by the International Olympic Committee.


Who decided to postpone the Games for a year and then hold them while a pandemic is raging? On what authority were those decisions based, and what procedures were followed? All these issues must be answered for historical purposes.


The same can be said of measures to contain COVID-19 cases centered on tests and isolation, which officials promised to take.


Suspicion has been raised, for example, about the realities of COVID-19 tests on Olympic volunteer workers. The organizing committee has only said, “We are requesting workers to observe the rules,” and declined to disclose the daily numbers of those who worked and those who were tested.


The organizing committee has an obligation to present concrete data for sharing challenges and lessons with others, albeit somewhat belatedly, before the other nations of the world, which are wary of viruses that could be brought back from Japan.


Sharing the data would also be useful for other large-scale events that will be held in other countries in the months and years to come.


If the “legacy” of the Olympic Games for the future, the pet phrase of officials, is not about that, then what is it all about?


A mountain of other questions have yet to be reviewed critically or explained, such as how individuals involved in the planning of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies who resigned or were dismissed over scandals were appointed in the first place.


Officials should take to heart they will not be allowed to put the lid on problems in the shadow of the spectacular showing of the athletes.


Indispensable for that purpose is the preservation and disclosure of records and documents.


We have a bitter precedent over the Nagano Winter Games of 1998. A scandal was raised over suspected bribery in connection with the Olympic bid, but the truth was never established because the account books had been destroyed.


The central and metropolitan governments, as well as the organizing committee, must each have, as a matter of course, an archive of records that document details of their activities and decision-making processes.


The Asahi Shimbun said in an editorial four years ago that the organizing committee, which is technically not covered by laws or ordinances, should still exercise proper management of its archive of documents to fulfill its accountability before the public.


We are reiterating that argument here, as a fresh reminder.

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