Tokyo faces a race against time

Tokyo faces a race against time
Tokyo Governor Naoki Inose speaks during the "Tokyo 2020 press conference".

TOKYO - After winning the bid to host the 2020 Olympics, Tokyo now faces a race against time. The nation's capital beat its rivals, Istanbul and Madrid, as its compact Games plan and presumed organizational ability to deliver the event in a safe and secure manner was viewed very positively. Tokyo plans to build 11 new facilities while using some venues from the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. It will have seven years to make good on its promises.

"We will deliver in legacy, for the city and for sport, thanks to our Games Hosting Fund of US$4.5 billion (S$5.71 billion) -ready right now to pay for 10 new permanent venues," Tokyo Gov. Naoki Inose stressed in a final presentation at the International Olympic Committee's general meeting in Buenos Aires on Saturday.

According to Tokyo's bid plan, 10 facilities, such as the Olympic Village in Chuo Ward and Youth Plaza Arenas on the reclaimed Dream Island, the venues for basketball and other indoor sports, will be newly constructed. The current National Stadium in Shinjuku Ward will be replaced with a new one to serve as the Olympic Stadium.

However, as these 11 facilities remain in the planning stage, Tokyo needs to gear up for their basic designs. Usually, the city spends six months just outlining the administrative procedures for building a new public facility after which the facility's design is considered. Tokyo needs to carry out test events at venues a year before the 2020 Olympics. This means it basically has six years to complete construction of the planned facilities.

"Designs alone would require two years. We want to get work started as soon as possible," a Tokyo metropolitan government official said.

The Olympic Village that is planned to be sold for housing after the 2020 Games will be built with a ¥95.4 billion (S$1.21 billion) private-sector fund. For other facilities, the central and Tokyo metropolitan governments will tap public funds totaling about ¥310 billion. According to an estimate, Tokyo's reserve fund alone can fully cover this amount.

However, a new national stadium, which is scheduled to be rebuilt by late March 2019, may face funding problems. Its construction is estimated to require ¥130 billion, and the money will come from state coffers. A British company has won an international design competition for the stadium. The firm has envisioned an 80,000-seat stadium featuring a streamlined retractable roof to accommodate all weather conditions.

The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry is expected to take up work on the stadium's basic design this autumn. But some people close to the bid committee have speculated the stadium might cost more than initially estimated due to its unconventional design.

However, a ministry official said, "It's impossible to revise a design that has been chosen in a competition."

Meanwhile, the Olympic Village to be built near the waterfront will require berm construction as part of protective measures against a tsunami. A senior Tokyo metropolitan government official said, "Tokyo might find it necessary to shoulder the additional costs for this construction."

Furthermore, the IOC has expressed concern over the limited size of three venues, including Nippon Budokan hall in Chiyoda Ward, the judo venue. Thus, overall costs could swell to an amount higher than initially estimated.

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