Unravel the Enigma

Phase 1

Journey extended, how to repack ?

Tuesday, March 24, 2020 the postponement of the Games of the XXXII Olympiad was announced. Less than a week later, on Monday, 30, the new dates, as of 23 July to August 8, 2021 and August 24 to September 5, 2021, were officially revealed. 

Although the Games will take place in 2021, they remain being called Tōkyō 2020, and so, the logos, advertisement, medals and merchandise will not have to be remade. On March 30, the Tōkyō Organising Committee declared as a general rule that the already sold tickets shall still be valid for the rescheduled events and that in case that ticket holders are not able to attend one year later or that the Games cannot secure a place (for example if a competition is moved to a smaller venue), refund is to be provided. Volunteers are asked to help at their already-assigned locations in 2021, and the torch relay runners have priority to take part in the rescheduled event. The flame, which arrived in Japan from Greece on March 20, will remain burning in the country and be visible at the J-Village in Fukushima Prefecture this April. Following, it shall be stored in Tōkyō, though the location and the question whether or not it will be on public display is still under discussion. Olympic officials have confirmed that the around 6,200 athletes who had already been qualified shall keep their spots. The decision, approved by all international sports organisations, resolves one of the key questions for all the competitors whose qualifying process came early in the 2020 sports calendar. 

In this period of global tension, where the focus is on the present and decisions are made day by day, hesitations about the postponement of the Olympic and Paralympic Games seem already part of the past and the issues that host city Tōkyō has to face recede into the background. 

Rescheduling the biggest sporting event in the world engenders important economic, political and logistical challenges. Due to the fast progression of happenings, the cruel reality is that at a certain point, a decision was urged and that there were merely three options for the organisers, none of which felt convenient. Despite long and persistent affirmations, it eventually became clear that holding the Games as scheduled would no longer be possible. Therefore, only two alternatives were left: postponement or cancellation. 

According to recent estimations, the general economic damage from the postponement of the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics may be at ¥ 620 billion (about USD 5.7 billion), and the 12-months extension could add another ¥ 22.5 billion (USD 208 million) due to maintenance cost for venues and the retain of facilities. A financial package is probably needed by related groups to keep their organisations in place and post-Olympics effects could take a hit of ¥ 218 billion (USD 2 billion). However, relinquishment is estimated at a cost of ¥ 4.5 trillion (USD 41.5 billion) and would socially be a tragic scenario. From the start of the government’s promotional activities through 2019 (a span of about 18 years), related expenditures are said to be around ¥ 32 trillion (roughly USD 295 billion), ¥ 20 trillion (USD 185 billion) of which stand to be lost in the event of cancellation. Despite various factors that threatened the Games in the past, they have except for 1916 (World War I), 1940 and 1944 (World War II) always been held. 

Tōkyō 2020’s journey has been extended for a year, but as the situation is unprecedented, there is no guidebook, reference or list suggesting how to repack. 

An important part of the Tōkyō Organising Committee staff had been seconded from corporate sponsors and is meant to return to work at those companies after next autumn. Hotels will need to rebook thousands of visitors; various facilities have to get reserved despite an already set agenda and the Athletes Village now has to adjourn its renovation schedule and potentially redo large numbers of agreements with buyers.

The IBC / MPC Tōkyō International Exhibition Centre (Tōkyō Big Sight), shall serve as the main press and broadcast centre for the Games. Tōkyō Big Sight, located in Kōtō Ward and operated by Tōkyō Prefecture, was reserved from May to September 2020. In order to make up for the loss of income during this time, the post-Games’ agenda has fully been booked with events. Many of them will have to be cancelled due to the postponement, which signifies not only a lack of revenue, but also implies paying penalties to contracted users. 

After serving as the Olympic and Paralympic Village for the 2020 Games, HARUMI FLAG shall become a new residential zone. In line with plans developed by the Tōkyō metropolitan Government (TMG), two 50-storey towers (of about 180m height) will subsequently be added to the condominium. By 2024, HARUMI FLAG should count 21 residential 14-18 floors block-type buildings and two residential 50-storey towers proposing all together 5,632 units. 4,145 thereof shall be for sale (with prices starting from about 54 million yen, USD 500,000) and 1,487, including senior housing and shared housing, for rent. Some first sales of the apartments were launched from July 26 to August 4, 2019, and 893 out of 940 units already found purchasers. The second round of sales was supposed to start in the end of March 2020, though it got rescheduled until after June this year. According to a notice published on March 30, 2020 on the website of HARUMI FLAG, due to the announcement of the postponement of the Games, pavilion tours have been suspended and there may be the possibility that the content of guidance will be changed.

When last week Prime Minister Abe Shinzō declared the State of Emergency in 7 out of the 47 Japanese Prefectures (Tōkyō, Kanagawa, Saitama, Chiba, Ōsaka, Hyōgo and Fukuoka) until May 6, 2020, he mentioned the option to use Olympic and Paralympic facilities in order to house COVID-19 patients. 

As a matter of fact, Tōkyō has been considering to resort to an accommodation in the waterfront area that was supposed to house security staff and others during the Games. Currently under construction, its completion was scheduled for early summer. By virtue of the postponement, the facility could be converted in sight of an interim use. Furthermore, the city has already reached an agreement with some private hotel operators to eventually secure rooms for around 1,000 people. By the TMG’s plan to rent buildings entirely, the measure aims to not only prevent the exhaustion of medical institutions, but also help support the hotel industry, which is feared to fall into financial difficulty due to the postponement of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Tōkyō’s governor Koike Yuriko has also emphasised the possibility of using the Athletes Village as a temporary hospital. Indeed, the housing complex, supposed to provide 18,000 beds during the Olympics and 8,000 beds during the Paralympics could accommodate an important number of individuals. The facility, almost completed, would though first have to be finalised and adapted to medical standards. That way, the postponement may curiously help enhance the phenomenon which was its cause. 

With the aim to prevent from overcrowded public transportation, Tōkyō started in the preparation for the Games to highly encourage the former rather depreciated practice of teleworking. Given that since the past weeks, the more and more people started to execute their tasks from home, amidst many cancelled test events, the capital’s population currently is in these regards experiencing a test run. 

To unravel the enigma of the postponement of the Games may be highly complex and obscure, though for me the journey is the reward. 

Yet to see whither it will lead… Pandora’s box has only just been opened.

Unboxing, Tōkyō 12/04/2020  © Louise Claire Wagner

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