2020 Tokyo Olympics
O n Saturday, September 7th the International Olympic Committee at its meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina decided to hold the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government had been campaigning for the last two summer games, always losing out to other cities. This time it beat out Madrid and Istanbul. So some people are very happy. Most people don’t care about the games but they do care about the possible economic benefits. I observed no “euphoria” as the media described it. Many of the Japanese I spoke to were positive towards the Games for the expected economic windfall. But at the same time there is a sizable portion of the population dead-set against the Games for reasons pertaining directly to the continuing fallout of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster, the Fukushima Nuclear Reactor fiasco and the chronic plight of evacuees from the flooded coastal areas in the northeast. In the October 11-24 edition of Metropolis magazine I read a report that surveys show 72% of Japanese people oppose any taxpayer money going towards the Olympics. It sounds like they want to eat their cake and have it, too. Maybe they don’t properly understand how the Olympics work, and where the money comes from.
Madrid’s chances were spoiled by Spain’s 27% unemployment rage and related serious economic problems. Istanbul’s campaign was not helped by the anti-government protests there recently that the police suppressed with considerable violence. Tokyo’s case was compromised by the ongoing Fukushima nuclear power plant situation, but not fatally so. The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) that operates the facility is failing to control leaks of radiation, playing wack-a-mole to stop repeated breaches of its containment facilities. Because the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami were so unprecedented the power company is simply out of its depth trying to deal with it. I don’t blame them, but it is probably passed time to enlist foreign help in the matter, even though that invites loss of face. Addressing the IOC and the international media Prime Minister Shinzo Abe just blatantly lied about how “safe” and “under control” Japan’s nuclear industry is and the IOC, with its snout deep in the trough as usual, let it pass.
But Tokyo’s emphasis on security and compactness - operating all the Olympic facilities within a few kilometers’ radius in a city already well served with infrastructure - swayed the IOC. Perhaps it was thought that since Tokyo is already one of the most developed cities in the world there would be minimal need for new, expensive development. New existing facilities are adequate and older facilities, like those built for the 1964 Olympics, can easily be renovated and reused. (Wrong!)
The Prime Minister’s rather rosy portrayal of the condition of the country, the work of his government, and the popularity of hosting the Games indicate to me that the man needs to get out more.
Through Saturday afternoon and evening we repeatedly checked the television to look for news from Argentina about the IOC’s decision. But because of the time difference the decision did not come until the early a.m. hours of Sunday 8th here, too late for the Sunday morning newspapers. I variously watch TV, listen to the radio and use the internet to learn news, but I still use daily newspapers as my primary source. I am against the Olympics so I was checking the media not out of supportive excitement but from a wish to avoid one of my worst dreams. My worst dream came true.
It’s not that I am against Tokyo hosting the 2020 Summer Olympics Games, although some argue that Japan is not mature enough to participate on the international stage. I oppose anyone hosting them because I oppose both the Games themselves and all organized team sports before that. Sure, sports are lucrative, but they are immoral, stupid, useless, and contribute to the destruction of family and society. I wish the IOC, that pack of pervy wankers, would retire itself from our
Here are some of the things that concern me. Support for the Olympics is lackluster among Japanese. The government and media façade is a fraud. The population of Japan is declining by close to 300,000 people per year. Most of that decline is expiring senior citizens who are not being replaced by children due to the very low birthrate. But even though they are seniors they are tax-paying seniors, meaning that the government’s tax revenue stream is slowly evaporating. Parallel to that I think the real cost of the Games will come in about twenty times higher than what the city bid. It usually does for these events, doesn’t it? Japan’s already massive public debt is sure to balloon further out of control, directly attributable to Prime Minister Abe’s policies plus the decision to assume the burden of the Olympics.
39 of Japan’s 47 prefectures currently are losing population. Tokyo is still growing, and the capital is expected to continue to grow until 2020, but then start shrinking soon after that. Even so, by 2020 the population of Tokyo will consist of almost 30% senior citizens, the fastest-growing age group. Perhaps
that means that the city will try to showcase to the world urban design intended to maximize accessibility and participation for aging societies.
Plans are afoot to renovate the old National Stadium that was used in the 1964 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games (held in October). It hasn’t started yet, which surprises me because I figured the city would be ready to move on that the minute the IOC awarded the Games, considering all its recent (failed) Olympic bids. I predict empty seats. The proposed site for the athletes’ village, the Harumi district on Tokyo Harbor, is on reclaimed land that has been under development for the last thirty-to-forty years. Right now, though, it is still mostly just a bare patch of land. I think someone had better get a move-on to develop it right quick, also. You’d think the bulldozers would be moving already, but they aren’t. There is one subway line servicing that area. New subway lines will not be built because the permanent residential population cannot support it, and the same is true for the expected residential population after the Games. They will sell, or try to sell the athletes’ accommodations afterward as condominium. But to support new train or subway service there will have to be accompanying commercial or entertainment districts that cannot be seen in demographers’ and developers’ crystal balls. The government’s plan to increase bussing routes, timetables and services during the Games doesn’t sound inviting.
The Harumi district technically is not very far from central Tokyo both in distance and in commuter time. But Tokyoites certainly think of it as being far away. Maybe that is unfair and inaccurate, but there it is.
Because of the demographics of Japan there is already a significant housing vacancy rate here: almost 20%. If you see a picture of Tokyo’s glorious high-rise skyline or densely-packed urban jungle just remember this: almost twenty percent of what you are looking at is unoccupied, unused, wasted space, not earning any revenue. PM Abe is promoting home construction to help fuel the economy, making incentives like subsidies for first-time home owners, or subsidies for renovations, easing loan interest rates for certain categories of people, etc. The Prime Minister’s rather rosy portrayal of the condition of the country, the work of his government, and the popularity of hosting the Games indicate to me that the man needs to get out more. Right now, ten months into his tenure, nothing has been done to utilize the female workforce, reduce trade barriers, cultivate entrepreneurship, prepare for an aging workforce, internationalize corporate tax rates, find an alternative to nuclear reactors, wrestle government power away from a vast, unproductive and sometimes corrupt bureaucracy and improve relations with Asian neighbors
The bottom line is still that the population is shrinking and we don’t need more houses, apartments and condominiums. We need more nursing homes and hospitals, and a plan to demolish abandoned homes and return the land to Nature, as parks, or woods, agriculture, or grassland.