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Concerns rising over Tokyo Games’ potential “negative legacy”

Tokyo, Sept. 9 (Jiji Press)–Concerns are mounting over the six sports facilities that were created by the Tokyo metropolitan government for the Olympics and Paralympics held this summer and for future events, as only one of them is expected to be profitable.

 

While the Tokyo government spent about 140 billion yen on the permanent facilities, they may end up becoming a “negative legacy” if the novel coronavirus crisis continues to prevent people from attending events at the sites, critics say.

 

“By making good use of the legacy of the successful Tokyo Games, we aim to make Tokyo a city rich in both tangible and intangible aspects,” Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike told reporters Wednesday, three days after the end of the Tokyo Paralympics, which followed the Olympic Games in the Japanese capital, held between late July and early August.

 

But myriad challenges remain regarding the profitability of the venues. Tokyo spent 56.7 billion yen, the most for any facility, on the Tokyo Aquatics Center in Koto Ward, which hosted swimming events in the Games. The center is slated to reopen in spring 2023 after it is renovated.

 

The facility is planned to be used as a training hub for athletes as it has three world-class pools and a fully equipped training room. It aims to host 100 swimming tournaments with one million attendees in total per year.

 

Although management of the facility has already been handed over to the private sector, it is estimated to log a loss of 640 million yen annually. Combined with the four other potentially unprofitable facilities, the total red ink is forecast to reach about 1.1 billion yen per year.

 

The metropolitan government hopes to turn them profitable by selling the naming rights and operating the sites at a higher frequency. But it has been unable to draw up specific action plans following the one-year postponement of the Tokyo Games caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

The Ariake Arena, which hosted volleyball events in the Games, is the only site expected to make money, with a projected annual profit of 360 million yen. The venue, also in Koto Ward, can be used for concerts in addition to sports events, and hopes to see 1.4 million users per year.

 

But the projections were drawn up before the pandemic struck, and a Tokyo metropolitan assembly member questions whether demand will match the estimates.

 

A facility for bobsleigh competitions built for the 1998 Nagano Winter Games in central Japan was shut down in 2018 after a decline in the number of users forced it to continue running losses.

 

“The metropolitan government must explain to residents what benefits can be reaped from the sites even if they are unprofitable,” the assembly member said.

 

Tokyo missed out on almost all of some 90 billion yen in ticket sales as spectators were banned from most venues at the Olympics and Paralympics, and the metropolitan government is now scrambling to figure out how to cover the lost revenue.

 

The metropolitan government’s finances are worsening due to its novel coronavirus measures. It hopes to negotiate with the Japanese government over how to split the costs from the Olympics and Paralympics after the Tokyo Games organizing committee comes up with its financial results in April next year, sources said.

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