Tokyo wins 2020 Summer Olympic bid

Monday 09 Sep 2013

But doubts linger over diversion of focus in light of Fukushima clear-up operation

On Sunday 8 September, Japan rejoiced as Tokyo was announced as the host city for the 2020 Summer Olympics. As we saw in London last year, hosting an international sporting event such as the Olympic Games is not only an honour but an opportunity for economic development and can be the push that cities need to invest in their existing infrastructure.

Tokyo’s vision is hung under the banner of ‘Discover Tomorrow’ which begs the question - what about yesterday? The nation is still ravaged by the effects of a disastrous earthquake and tsunami in 2011 which hit a nuclear power plant in Fukushima, crippling its heating and cooling systems which led to the release of radioactive materials into the public realm. Two years down the line and a matter of weeks before the decision of which city would host the 2020 Summer Olympics, the Japanese government stepped in to pledge 47bn Yen to the clean-up operation, part of which will be used to fund a 2-mile underground wall of ice to stem toxic leaks into the Pacific Ocean.

Estimates suggest that it could be up to 40 years before the decommissioning of Fukushima is complete and while there is no current threat to the capital from the radioactive material some fear that the injection of money and resources into the Olympic bid is taking focus away from the more serious problem of radioactive leakage.

The BBC’s Rupert Wingfield-Hayes reported from Tokyo: “About 100,000 people are still unable to go home because of the nuclear disaster that struck the Fukushima Daiichi plant more than two-and-a-half years ago. Many feel that the rest of Japan is already forgetting about them, and that the Japanese government only cares about getting the other nuclear power plants back on line.”

For some, the successful bid could be the boost that Japan needs to finally see the end to the clear-up operation. Tokyo resident Yumiko Okada told reporters at Reuters: “Tepco [owners of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant] has not been clear about a number of things, and maybe now there will be enough foreign pressure to get this thoroughly taken care of. Now the eyes of the world will be watching.”

In July 2012 a tender was issued for the Japan National Stadium (see here for the brief via WAN Business Information) which was snapped up by Zaha Hadid Architects following a competition between top names including UNStudio + Yamashita Sekkei Inc., Toyo Ito & Associates, SANAA + Nikken Sekkei, and stadium specialists Populous. Seating 80,000 spectators, the effortlessly flowing design was integral to the Tokyo bid and is due to open in 2018 in time to host the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

Japan’s bid website repeatedly references infrastructure and innovative technology in a list of reasons it should be granted the bid, the concluding reason being: Tokyo enjoys the largest GDP of any city in the world with a US$4.5bn cash Games fund in the bank, and full Government financial guarantees. This hefty financial backing will come as welcome news to local construction firms as well as infrastructure professionals and arena specialists around the world as the architecture and design industry awaits a flood of tenders for the construction and redevelopment of supporting venues for the 2020 Summer Olympics.

Maps for both the Olympic and Paralympic Games show the majority of venues located in or around the Tokyo Bay and Heritage Zones. Within these boundaries spectators will find venues for wrestling, hockey, fencing, tennis, badminton and aquatics among others, but certain arenas or outdoor venues will be found at alternative locations. Zaha Hadid’s National Stadium will host the opening and closing ceremonies, athletics, football and rugby competitions, and sits in a cluster with the Toyko Metropolitan Gymnasium (table tennis) and Yoyogi National Stadium (handball) near the Yoyogi Park.

To watch the judo competitions, start of the road cycling or weightlifting contests visitors will need to travel towards the Imperial Palace where they will find three venues in the Nippon Budokan, Imperial Palace Garden and Tokyo International Forum. Sports such as golf and shooting will be further afield. A full map for the Olympic and Paralympic Games venues can be found here.

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