News


2011-12-04

OLYMPICS/ Mizuno says Tokyo 2020 bid budget will be slashed



December 03, 2011  (Reuter)
Tokyo will halve the cost of the city's bid to host the 2020 Olympics after criticism of the $150 million spent on its failed attempt to secure the 2016 Games.
Bid committee CEO Masato Mizuno told Reuters on Dec. 2 that Tokyo planned to slash spending and still launch a vastly improved challenge for 2020.
"That's my mission," Mizuno said in an interview at Tokyo metropolitan government headquarters. "This time we plan to cut the budget in half.
"The last time was about $150 million. On the first round (of voting) we learned a lot about financial management, so for the second round we have to be much smarter.
"Like in daily life, if you have enough money: 'Hey, why don't we have steak?' But this time the budget is small so we go to find nice noodles -- okay."
Tokyo, which hosted Asia's first Olympics in 1964, lost out to Rio de Janeiro in the race for the 2016 Games, with low public support amid a deepening recession largely blamed.
The devastating earthquake and tsunami in March which triggered a nuclear meltdown at a power plant north of the city plunged Tokyo's plans for a fresh bid for 2020 into chaos.
"A massive earthquake and tsunami like that you get once in a thousand years," Mizuno said.
"I watched TV pictures of children crying for lost parents and for the first month all I could think about was how to help the victims, not about bidding for the Olympics.
"But after receiving support from the IOC (International Olympic Committee) and Olympic Council of Asia, we felt we had to bid."
Plans to hold sports such as soccer in disaster-hit northeast Japan are being considered by Tokyo's bid leaders.
"It's been reported in the media soccer will be played in (quake-hit) Sendai," Mizuno said with a smile. "We are examining the possibility.
"Sailing we could also hold anywhere," he added, referring to the possibility of taking the sport north of Tokyo in 2020 to the coastline ravaged by the tsunami.
"Our planning team is researching all these possibilities but just having the Olympic Games in Japan will give the whole country a boost, like in 1964."
Plans to build a gleaming, flying saucer-shaped Olympic stadium on Tokyo Bay, outlined in the city's 2016 bid, could be scrapped, however.
"The IOC had issues with the seafront stadium because it was surrounded by water on three sides," said Mizuno. "They were worried about a stampede in the case of an emergency."
Tokyo's National Stadium, the main venue for the 1964 Olympics, would need a major facelift and expansion but remains a sentimental choice.
"If the 1964 stadium can be used, I would be happy," Mizuno said, saying no decision had been made regarding the main stadium. "It is under discussion."
Public support, currently hovering above 60 percent according to Mizuno, remains critical, with Japan's bid leaders targeting a figure of 65-75 percent.
"Seventy percent is a line we would like to cross," he said, noting that it had hovered around 55 percent in the run-up to the IOC vote for 2016.
Mizuno promised that the city's Games budget would be watertight, with $4.8 billion already in the bank, but admitted Tokyo's bid team needed to improve their lobbying skills.
"Look at Pyeongchang," gushed Mizuno, pointing to South Korea's successful 2018 Winter Olympics bid.
"(Korean Olympic Committee president) Mr. Park (Yong-sung) is a very open person and friendly and straight with everyone.
"We are putting that sort of team together. It will be a very tough race," added Mizuno, with Rome and Madrid expected to give Tokyo a run for its money for 2020.
"Some people say the Japanese are not outgoing, hesitate to speak or be open. We can't just say: 'Hello. How are you? Nice to meet you. Bye bye.' That's not lobbying.
"We have to build friendship, trust and understanding to prove Tokyo will make the ideal Olympic venue and has the best package."