Tokyo Games’ final cost estimate shows bid numbers were unrealistic

Although there were no additional funds required from the public coffers in the end — a situation that had been feared — the cost of the 2020 Tokyo Games has doubled from the estimates at the bidding stage. This fact should be taken as an opportunity to rethink the costs and benefits of hosting a huge event.

The Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games has announced that the cost of hosting the event is expected to total ¥1.45 trillion. This is ¥190 billion less than the planned budget, and no additional burden has been incurred by the central government or the Tokyo metropolitan government.

Due to the spread of the novel coronavirus, competitions were held without spectators at most of the venues, which reduced the costs of security and transportation and the like, leading to a reduction in expenses. Narrowing down the number of Games-related individuals who came from outside Japan also contributed to the reduction.

Even though the Games were unexpectedly simplified, it is undeniable that the cost was still enormous. If spectators from home and abroad had been allowed, even more expenditures would have been unavoidable due to measures against coronavirus infections and the heat.

The Games did not lead to the virus spreading, and they brought excitement as Japanese athletes performed well. This point is commendable, but the issue is that the cost has doubled from the ¥730 billion estimated at the bidding stage.

The organizing committee has explained that it did not include construction work around the facilities at the bidding stage. One cannot help but say that the committee made a low estimate of the cost in order to win the bid.

In past Games, many senior International Olympic Committee officials and others have visited, incurring huge expenses for accommodations and hospitality.

For the latest Games, the number of people attending the opening ceremony was drastically decreased and the hospitality provided for senior IOC officials was also downsized. Had the event not taken place during the COVID-19 pandemic, the cost would have been huge.

There are only a limited number of cities and countries that can accept all the excessive demands of the IOC. The official report of the Tokyo Games to be submitted to the IOC next spring should include constructive proposals for keeping the Games going in the future. The IOC, for its part, should take such suggestions seriously.

The Tokyo Games were plagued by troubles right up to the opening, including confusion over the construction plan for the National Stadium, a plagiarism scandal over the Tokyo Olympics’ logo as well as the resignations and dismissal of those in charge of staging the opening ceremony.

It is important to summarize such incidents and use them as lessons learned. It will also serve as a reference for future events such as the 2030 Winter Olympics and Paralympics, for which the city of Sapporo is bidding, and the Osaka-Kansai Expo 2025.

The challenge from now on is how to effectively use the newly constructed venues. The annual maintenance cost of the National Stadium comes to ¥2.4 billion, and five of the six facilities built by the Tokyo metropolitan government are expected to incur losses. It is important to devise ways to make the facilities easier for residents to use so that they do not become a negative legacy.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Dec. 31, 2021.