Sounds of a City, Chapter 2: animo

Compared to other Olympic and Paralympic host cities, there have been relatively few negative news about the Tōkyō 2020 Games and apart from some rumours about the scraped New National Stadium or the imitation of the initial logo, domestic as well as foreign media seemed to have little interest in bloating stories over the past years. Reasons may be the general tendency of Japanese prudent media culture, the difficulty to access information in other than Japanese language and the restrained amount of international journalists covering Tōkyō. For example the UK, who hosted the Games in London in 2012, counts about 1,700 foreign correspondents, whereas Japan has roughly 300. 

However, since the One Year To Go, discussions about Tōkyō’s preparation are multiplying and put the city progressively in a darker light. 

In the run up to the Olympic and Paralympic Games, common points of criticism are host cities’ rush in the construction of venues, the eviction of locals as well as costs and cost overruns. 

Looking at Tōkyō, the Olympic agenda has overall been respected, the various test events are being held as foreseen and even the change of the New National Stadium’s design has not prevented its accomplishment sufficient in advance. 

Beijing, displacing 1.5 million residents for the 2008 Games, but also Seoul in 1988 with 720,000 evictions and the last host city Rio de Janeiro with over 70,000 relocations have drawn media’s attention. By building most of the new venues it the quite unsettled bay area, rather than chasing, Tōkyō tries to attract people to its new artificial islands. However, in some parts of the Heritage Zone and specifically around the New National Stadium, a handful of homeless people have been asked to leave at the beginning of the construction works. As the renitency has been little and the number of concerned very moderate, the operation has for many passed unnoticed. Although this displacement may occur irrelevant, it is to mention that Japan counts amongst the lowest homeless rates in the world and that, as often, the most vulnerable part of the population got affected by the construction of the venues.

Currently estimated at about USD 12.5 billion, Tōkyō’s Olympic budget has already quadrupled. Hereby, the Japanese capital surpasses the 156% average cost overrun of the modern Olympiad, albeit undermatches the so far unbeaten 720% overrun of the Montreal 1976 Summer Games.  Nevertheless, recent concerns about the heat during the Games and the costs related to preventive measures have triggered a series of critical press articles. This has been accentuated by the most recent idea of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to move the 2020 Games marathon and race walking events to Sapporo on Japan’s northern main island Hokkaido and governor Koike Yuriko’s sarcastic counter proposal to hold the competitions somewhere on Russia-held Japan-claimed islands. In order to avoid the unendurable daytime heat, the marathons, scheduled for the 2nd and the 9th August, have already been advanced of 90 minutes and the streets have been paved with a special coating that reduces heat reflection from road surface. 

Even though competitions were partly held at night, the high temperatures during the IAAF World Athletics Championship held in Doha, Qatar from 27th September to 6th October 2019, put numerous athletes in bad condition, causing the drop out of about 40% of the runners in the women’s marathon. Since then, the IOC expressed its concerns over potential risk to the athletes’ lives. It is very uncommon to change the venues of major Olympic events only 10 months before they are held and although in Japan there have been relatively few manifestations from opponents of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, the controversy between Tōkyō’s government and the IOC has drawn attention. 

For now, it looks as if the marathon and the walking race will be held in Sapporo, but the final decision will be announced around 31st October.

Following the statement, it is likely that both, national and international media will gain interest in Games-related scandals. Yet to see if the news will be treated with restraint or if they will set off an avalanche of numerous articles about the upcoming Tōkyō 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. 

Using Format