From Tokyo 1964 to Tokyo 2020: Japan tightens it belt

THE International Olympic Committee (IOC) is not removed from the fluctuations in the global economy, experiencing its recessions and slowdowns, elements that affect the host cities of its quadrennial Games.

The international sports organization has insisted – in order to make financial savings – on maintaining the number of participating athletes at close to 10,000. This is an objective that in the last three editions of the Games it was close to fulfilling, however London 2012 saw a total of 10,568 athletes.

The issue of the “gigantism” of the Games not only covers the young people who animate the facilities with their effort, enthusiasm and quality. The need for cuts also impacts on the preparation of the venues, and Tokyo, host of the upcoming event under the five rings in 2020, is no exception.

The Japanese economy, exposed to fluctuations due to its high dependence on exports (automobiles, electronic products, chemicals, steel, machine tools, among its main exportable goods), has been vulnerable, even though its trade balance showed a surplus in 2016. It is currently the third largest economy on the planet, behind the United States and China.

The Japanese have taken note that only rational spending will lead to a success similar to that of Tokyo 1964, when the Asian continent hosted an Olympic contest for the first time, then described by critics as the “Perfect Games.”


The initial step of the future hosts of the greatest spectacle of international sports, in order to attend to this economic reality, was the dismissal of the proposal of Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid for a new Olympic Stadium, designed to hold 80,000 people and valued at 2.082 billion dollars.

Instead, they opted for the design by their own Kengo Kuma, reducing the cost to 1.2 billion dollars and offering 68,000 seats in its stands, an adjustment which the IOC Coordination Commission was made aware of on a recent visit to the venue, for the fifth time. Specialists assure that the building will permit an increase to its capacity, while they plan to conclude the works by November 2019 and put the facilities to the test during the Rugby World Cup.

The previous Olympic Stadium – with capacity for 57,363 people – also remained in the country’s capital until 2015, when it was demolished. Built in 1958, it was remodeled to receive the competitors in the summer Games of 1964. However, more than 50 years after that edition, in which 1,800 million dollars were allocated to remodel the city’s sports centers, and the Games in general required expenditure of around just 3 billion dollars, the costs are incomparable to those of Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Río de Janeiro 2016, each spending over 11 billion of dollars.

A further 11 venues for different sports will also make adjustments to the number of seats available in the lead up to Tokyo 2020, despite the fact that Japan has a population of over 127 million people, and a high population density of 336 inhabitants per km2. Thus, the centre for equestrian disciplines will see its capacity reduced from 14,000 to 9,300 seats, the boxing venue from 10,000 to 7,700, and there will be space for 5,000, instead of 7,000, spectators at the archery competitions, to mention just a few examples.

The people of Japan will surely strive to ensure that history is repeated, and those “Perfect Games” of Tokyo 1964 are repeated in Tokyo 2020, in a context in which even the most developed countries are having to tighten their belts.


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