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Editorial: Sapporo needs more than cost-cutting measures to justify Winter Olympic bid

  • December 11, 2021
  • , The Mainichi
  • English Press

The Sapporo Municipal Government has unveiled an amended proposal for hosting the 2030 Winter Olympics and Paralympics. Among its features are a pronounced emphasis on using existing facilities, and wide-ranging cost reductions.


The 2020 Tokyo Games held this past summer showed how difficult it is to whip up public support for holding the event.


Sapporo’s government opted to revise its existing plans with consideration for the public mood. It will compress expenditure by up to 90 billion yen (some $794 million), with total costs estimated to reach between 280 billion and 300 billion yen (about $2.47 billion to $2.65 billion).


Competition venues have been reduced by two to 13. Many facilities used in the 1972 Sapporo Winter Olympics will be upgraded for use in 2030, and plans have changed to hold sledding events at the central Japan course made for the 1998 Nagano Winter Games. Facility expenses have been brought down to around 80 billion yen (around $706 million).


Management expenses for the Games are expected to reach 200 billion to 220 billion yen (about $1.76 to $1.94 billion), with income coming from ticket sales and sponsorship deals. But what has been announced this time is only the budget related to the organizing committee. It’s doubtful whether hosting expenses can be covered by this.


For the 2020 Tokyo Games bid, a budget of 734 billion yen (about $6.47 billion) was put together, but the actual costs swelled to over two times that amount. Huge amounts of taxpayers’ money were funneled into spending on coronavirus prevention measures and security costs, among other expenses.


Among the areas that have their eyes on bids for the 2030 Games are Salt Lake City in the U.S., Vancouver in Canada and Pyrenees-Barcelona in Spain. Ukraine is also expressing interest. In aiming for its second Winter Games, Sapporo must make clear what the merits of its bid are.


The city’s vision is of a “sustainable Olympics and Paralympics, characteristic of Sapporo.” But can public support be obtained merely by emphasizing the use of existing facilities and cost reductions?


The reason for holding the 2020 Tokyo Games changed repeatedly, and it was associated with multiple concepts including a “disaster recovery Olympics” in relation to the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and “proof of victory over the coronavirus.” Amid the coronavirus pandemic, organizers sparked a backlash with their stance of ignoring public sentiment to push ahead with hosting the Games as a foregone conclusion.


In January 2022, the Sapporo Municipal Government will hold a forum for discussion with city residents, and in March, a poll of Hokkaido residents’ views on the Games will be carried out. A final plan will be compiled in accordance with findings from both.


When asked what response would be taken in the event that numerous opposing views are heard, Mayor Katsuhiro Akimoto avoided a clear statement, instead saying, “We hope to be allowed to make a comprehensive final decision.”


Understanding from the people of the region is indispensable for the Games’ success. In advancing bid activities, it is important that the voices of residents are listened to closely.

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