Olympic Games | The Guardian
TThe public square in front of Shimbashi Station, which was the scene of the anti-Olympic protests this summer, has resumed its usual role as an after-work meeting place. Newspapers that have contrasted athletic performance with rising coronavirus cases are now wondering how Japan’s new Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will fare when voters go to the polls later this month.
The recent lifting of the Covid-19 contingency measures has heightened feelings that Tokyo is “back to normal” after months of Olympic controversy and virus-induced anxiety. Residents who were banned from attending all but a few events might be tempted to ask whether the XXXII. The Olympics were actually a recurring theme in a long, feverish dream.
The record-breaking gold medal rush for Japan’s athletes, the warm glow of the media attention that ensued, and the empty scenes in which their exploits unfolded are proof that Tokyo 2020 did indeed happen and that the pandemic for a heady, damp period of two Weeks have been surpassed by faster, higher, and stronger human efforts.
But this week – as the city celebrates two months since the President of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, and Emperor Naruhito declared the Games over – the hosts and organizers are the highest at the IOC Tokyo 2020 Embassy Act of resilience held before a moment of reckoning.
As promised, are there any signs that Tokyo 2020 will leave the public with an enduring sporting legacy? Was hosting the Games a mistake in the middle of the pandemic? Most of all, did it justify the $ 15 billion bill, most of which is paid by Japanese taxpayers?
These are meaty questions that will only yield imprecise answers just two months later.
The slump in Covid-19 cases – Tokyo posted 149 on Wednesday up from a record 5,773 in mid-August – and a surge in vaccinations, with more than 60% of the Japanese population now double-vaccinated, have taken the heat off the public health debate, which followed the post-Olympic climb.
“I think the Games were worth it,” says Michael Duignan, a reader at events at Surrey University, despite his concerns about the impact of Olympic gentrification on older, poorer neighborhoods – including parts of Tokyo.
“Apart from the closer discussion about the protection of the face, something bigger and philosophical was at stake for Japan. She couldn’t have canceled the Olympics because of the damage it would have done to people’s trust in themselves and their government. “
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There are signs even at this early stage that the 2020 legacy of Tokyo may not be as emphatic as organizers hoped. The sale of operating rights to Olympic venues is unlikely to cover the cost of maintaining them, especially those that are only used occasionally, such as the $ 1.6 billion National Stadium. The structure, which is reported to cost $ 22 million a year to maintain, will host rugby and soccer games and, if Tokyo’s bid is successful, the 2025 World Athletics Championships.
BMX and skateboarding were two of the breakout sports in Tokyo, but Ariake Urban Sports Park, the site of Bethany Shriever’s triumph for Team GB in women’s BMX, is no more. Work began this month to dismantle temporary venues to make way for pre-Olympics-approved developments, although the local mayor, Takaaki Yamazaki, is in talks with the Tokyo city government to conserve the skateboard park.
However, Masa Takaya, a spokeswoman for the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee, believes the “inspirational” performances of the Olympians and Paralympists “sparked a passion for the sport,” well served by Tokyo’s Olympic infrastructure. “Newly built venues are designed to meet public needs, and we all know that these venues will add even more to people’s lives in every possible way,” he says. “We hope that through the 2020 Games people could see the values of sport so that sport and athletes can continue to play a vital role in building a better society.”
Shimbashi Station in Tokyo, site of the protests against the Summer Olympics. Photo: Ivan Alvarado / Reuters
The organizers can only hope that the sporting legacy outperforms their commitment to sustainability. They reportedly threw away 130,000 pre-ordered meals for staff and volunteers, along with £ 5 million (£ 33,000) worth of supplies including medical masks and gowns.
However, there is a loose consensus on how the IOC “coerced” Japanese citizens in the run-up to the Games. “If the Tokyo Olympics leave a legacy, it may well be that the world has opened its eyes to the deeply rooted darker sides of the Olympics: overspending, displacement, greenwashing, decimation of democracy,” says Jules Boykoff, professor of political science at Pacific University and author of NOlympians and Power Games: A Political History of the Olympics.
With an IOC immune to such strange democratic concepts as accountability, Olympic opponents in Japan may have already voiced their disapproval for contributing to Suga’s decision to step down after his post-Olympic surge in popularity failed to materialize.
It is far too early to assess whether the second incarnation of the Tokyo Olympics, forced upon a reluctant city in the depths of a pandemic, will ever match the extraordinary legacy of the first, almost six decades ago by a country that desperately trying to emerge from it, assumed the shadow of war.
What we do know is that the 2020 Games’ cost promises to outperform any other Olympic Games when the official numbers are released next year. The intensity of the financial hangover will “depend on how easily Tokyo can bear the costs of the games,” says Bent Flyvbjerg, professor at Oxford University and the IT University of Copenhagen.
“If Tokyo is rich enough to pay the bills without a lack of money to spend on other activities, then the hangover is likely to be mild. But if hosting the Games and being at fault for large cost overruns results in funds being withheld from other areas, or if large debts have to be paid off, then the hangover is likely to be significant. “
Despite being unable to fend off the Olympic juggernaut this summer, activists in Tokyo believe the Games at least lied to the IOC as a benevolent force. “If Tokyo 2020 paid off,” says a Hangorin no Kai spokesman, “it gave the people of Japan and around the world a clear lesson about how the Olympic and Paralympic Games and the IOC are life Disregard livelihood, democracy and the autonomy of the people in the host cities and give priority to their own greed. “