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Editorial: Tokyo Olympics report lacking vital rigorous assessment

  • December 24, 2021
  • , The Asahi Shimbun , 4:19 p.m.
  • English Press

The Tokyo 2020 organizing committee’s report on the Olympics and Paralympic Games held this summer fails to offer a truly rigorous and instructive review of the events, which were plagued by a raft of problems and scandals.


The document does not measure up to the requirements for such a report that should be designed to provide citizens and taxpayers with clear explanations they deserve and glean lessons from the mistakes for the future.


The Summer Games’ organizing committee on Dec. 22 reported estimates of the actual costs incurred and the revenues earned by the Olympics and Paralympics to its executive board. The committee also published a review report on the sporting extravaganza.


The total costs came to an estimated 1,453 billion yen, about 191 billion yen lower than the committee’s projection in December 2020. Since spectators were, in principle, barred from both Olympic and Paralympic events due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the expected 90 billion yen in revenue from ticket sales did not materialize.


But the costs of setting up venues and security-related expenses were curbed as a result.


The committee’s revenue shortfall due to the absence of spectators will be offset by the Tokyo metropolitan government’s payment of 62.8 billion yen as its share of the financial burden of staging the “joint project.”


The metropolitan government says the money will be paid from its regular budget with no additional taxpayer funds needed. But this seems to be nothing but massaging the figures. Many citizens must still not be buying this explanation.


When the committee unveils the final figures around June next year as planned, it has to disclose all details about the expenses. The Board of Audit, the Diet and the metropolitan assembly should examine the numbers carefully to fulfill their responsibility to scrutinize public spending effectively.


The Japanese public still has deep doubts about the costs.


During their lobbying campaign to host the events, organizers often cited a cost estimate of 730 billion yen to promote their vision of a “compact Olympics” and win support for their bid both at home and abroad.


Now, however, the organizing committee is trying to downplay the significance of the figure, saying as if it had nothing to do with the estimate, the figure was mainly based on the costs of building necessary facilities and did not cover operational costs.


“Such a figure often takes on a life of its own,” one senior committee member has said.


In fact, the cost estimates kept ballooning. At one point, a whopping estimate of 3 trillion yen emerged.


With many government organizations seeking to get funding for their projects and programs by taking advantage of the Olympics budgeting process, many of the projected expenses were not clearly linked to the events.


Poor explanations about the spending plan given by organizers did nothing to assuage public doubt about the cost projections.


The committee’s review report on the events is full of flaws and shortcomings.


The thick, 670-page document gives few convincing answers to important questions concerning the many problems, controversies and scandals that bedeviled the grand undertaking.


They include confusion over the design of the National Stadium and the emblem, the metropolitan government’s aborted plans to change some venues, and the abrupt decision to relocate the marathon and competitive walking events to Sapporo.


Other concerns revolve around the process in which the Games were postponed by one year and the decision to hold events without spectators was made as well as issues of responsibility for these decisions.


A further concern is the dismal governance of the organizing committee underscored by the resignation of Yoshiro Mori as president of the committee after making derogatory comments about women and a flurry of scandals concerning the Opening Ceremony.


The report does not offer any notable comments on these questions, frustrating the public’s desire to hear the facts that they are entitled to know.


We need to pay close attention to the official report the committee plans to submit to the International Olympic Committee as early as next spring to check whether it will be without substance as well.


Organizers, who proceeded with the events despite the divided public opinion, need to offer all the hard facts about the events as they are all relevant to thinking about the increasingly uncertain future of the Olympic movement.


They need to recognize that it is their responsibility to the world to give a real, unmasked picture of Tokyo 2020.


–The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 24

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