TOKYO — Despite scandals, rising costs and doubts about the economic payoff, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will be a must-see event — if you can find a ticket or a hotel room — when they open in a year.
Tokyo was supposed to be a “safe pair of hands” after Rio de Janeiro’s corruption and near-meltdown three years ago.
In comparison, it has been.
Local sponsorship revenue has passed $3 billion, about three times more than any previous games, and ticket demand is unprecedented. But several scandals have plagued the run-up to the Games.
Tsunekazu Takeda, the head of the Japanese Olympic Committee, was forced to resign this year when he was implicated in a vote-buying scheme to land the Games. Organizers were forced to redesign their logo when the original draft faced charges of plagiarism, and an international labor union has alleged work-safety violations at Olympic venues, largely regarding migrant labor.
Enthusiasm, nevertheless, remains high, even though few Japanese citizenscan get tickets. Estimates suggest up to 90% of Japan residents who applied were unsuccessful in the first phase of a ticket lottery in June.
“This is probably going to be the most popular Olympics, and possibly one of the most popular events of all time,” Ken Hanscom said. He follows ticketing around the globe as the chief operating officer of Los Angeles-based TicketManager.
Photo: Behrouz Mehri / AFP / Getty Images
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Roy Tomizawa, a Japanese American who lives in Japan and published the most definitive book on Tokyo’s 1964 Olympics, said he applied for 16 tickets and got zero in the June lottery. Organizers quickly have thrown together a so-called second-chance lottery in August, and have another lottery set for later in the year.
“I thought that putting myself down for the most expensive tickets would ensure me of winning seats, but that wasn’t the case,” Tomizawa said. “I struck out resoundingly. The high demand appeared to surprise everyone, Japanese and non-Japanese alike.”
Tomizawa, whose father was a producer for NBC News at the ’64 Olympics, said the “measured demeanor” of the Japanese hides their Olympic enthusiasm. There are great expectations. Japan is shooting for a record 30 gold medals, almost twice the previous best of 16 in Tokyo.
And don’t forget: Greater Tokyo has a population of more than 35 million — the world’s largest metropolitan area.
The Olympics will be simply a sideshow for some Tokyo visitors, astounded by the cleanliness, courtesy and order. Japan’s sprawling capital is a dense mix of the traditional and eccentric, where bowing meets bustle. Small shrines or temples nestle alongside gleaming towers, passengers wedge into commuter trains and pedestrians meander through a labyrinth of alleyways, inevitably lined with places to eat and drink.
Tokyo’s 1964 Olympics marked a turning point for Japan, highlighting the country’s recovery just 19 years after World War II. It was the first games in Asia and left behind breathtaking architecture — such as Kenzo Tange’s Yoyogi National Gymnasium and its suspension roof — and showcased dozens of consumer brands that became household names around the world.
Ambitions are more modest this time. Organizers are emphasizing the rebuilding of the Fukushima area northeast of Tokyo, which was devastated by a 2011 earthquake, tsunami and the meltdown of three nuclear reactors. Some baseball and softball is being played there, a gesture to convince the world the area is safe.
The games will open July 24, 2020, at the height of Tokyo’s hot, humid summer. Events like the marathon will start just after dawn.
Tokyo is building eight venues. The other 35 venues are defined as “temporary” or older buildings being reused, which Tokyo organizers say has saved billions. The centerpiece is the $1.25 billion National Stadium — a futuristic design by the late British architect Zaha Hadid was scrapped when costs soared to $2 billion, so Japanese architect Kengo Kuma took over the project and his design focused on wood lattice and greenery that will be finished by the end of the year.
The Olympic Village will be for more than 10,000 athletes on the edge of Tokyo Bay.
Exact costs — what are, and are not Olympic expenses — are difficult to assess, but Tokyo is spending at least $20 billion to get ready, 70% of which is taxpayers’ money.
Stephen Wade is an Associated Press writer.
This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/sports/article/Tokyo-1-year-out-scandals-high-costs-but-14115218.php.