Being chosen as host city for the Olympics is seen as a badge of honor. It can highlight the wonders of a city and bring immense excitement to the region. Even playing host for the Olympic team trials, like Eugene, Oregon (aka “TrackTown USA”) did in 2016, can be a thrilling event. But with great honor comes great responsibility — and that often includes immense financial responsibility, sometimes beyond what a given city can handle.
The next Olympic games are to take place in Tokyo, but experts have warned that unless key cost-cutting measures are taken, the cost of the 2020 Olympic Games could top $30 billion. This could present an impossible financial hardship for taxpayers. Newly elected Tokyo governor, Yuriko Koike, was one of the first to raise concerns about the growing cost of hosting the Olympic Games and the potential financial burden they could pose for the city’s residents. She was responsible for launching the Olympic investigation panel in order to research the possible economic effect the Games might have on the inhabitants of Tokyo.
The report reviewed three out of seven permanent venue structures that have been planned for construction. Instead of building new facilities that will be deemed useless after the Olympics are over, the report suggests using existing facilities. The report also suggests the option of moving canoeing and rowing events outside the main city and finding other sites for volleyball and swimming events. Tokyo has already implemented cost-cutting measures that will save the city around $1 billion, but any further changes will require the approval of the International Olympic Committee. Governor Koike says she has plans to discuss options with the IOC during their visits to Japan in the coming weeks, stating that, “we cannot impose the negative legacy onto the Tokyo residents.”
The investigation panel attributed the rapidly inflating costs to poor leadership and a loss of control. The concerns over Tokyo’s ballooning Olympic budget have led to global-wide concern, and their preparations for the 2020 Summer Olympics have been filled with a number of issues and scandals. Among these are allegations of bribery within the Olympic bidding process and the high cost of the new national stadium. The report from the investigative panel stated that the cost of planned and completed venues had increased due to needlessly high stadium capacities, as well as implementation of unnecessary state-of-the-art equipment and the lack of an overall budget ceiling.
The organizing committee has been criticized for being irresponsible and incompetent, as the now-estimated $30 billion cost is more than a four-fold increase from the initial estimate. Committee president Yoshiro Mori acknowledged last summer that the total cost could exceed $20 billion — double his unofficial estimate from a year earlier — and blamed his initial estimate on sloppy calculations from the Toyko metropolitan government and Japanese Olympic Committee.
Mori has, in turn, criticized the investigative panel for proposing venue moves and cost-saving measures, as “it would be extremely difficult” to change the existing plans that have already been approved by the International Olympic Committee. However, the governor of Tokyo and the expert panel agree that “anyone who hears these numbers is alarmed” and that the citizens of Tokyo should not be dealt an undue financial burden as a result of hosting the Olympics — no matter how prestigious the honor may be.