TOKYO >> It’s about five months until the opening of the 2020 Olympic Games, and although Tokyo has received praise for its preparations to host the world’s biggest sporting event, the road so far has had its fair share of potholes and speed bumps, and there’s plenty still to be done.
With the government hoping to attract a record 40 million visitors to Japan this year, Tokyo is addressing every front, from building new venues and training 80,000 volunteers to strengthening cybersecurity and improving accessibility for the disabled and non-Japanese speakers. Recently, the Japan Coast Guard conducted an anti- terrorism drill on a passenger boat at Tokyo’s Takeshiba Pier, as many of the venues are located near the waterfront.
The host city has spent more than 1.37 trillion yen ($12.5 billion) on preparations, according to an annual budget plan released last month by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. The International Olympic Committee has spent more than 600 billion yen (about $5.5 billion) and the central government 150 billion yen (nearly $1.4 billion).
Critics remain skeptical that the “Recovery Olympics” will lead to revivals in areas hit by the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, as Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have pledged. And the spread of the coronavirus in China has raised concerns of an outbreak during the Games.
Preparations have been shaped by concerns about Tokyo’s infamous summer heat. Free ice cream, artificial snow, giant mist machines and trees strategically planted to create shade are just a few items on a growing list of countermeasures being implemented in the run-up to the opening ceremony on July 24.
The 1964 Games were held in October to avoid this issue. This time around, however, it will be held in the middle of summer due to pressure from Western media outlets.
Concern over the weather came to a head in October when the Olympic committee made a unilateral decision to move the marathon and race walking events to Sapporo, a cooler site.
Tickets for the relocated events are not yet available, but nearly all other events have been met with unprecedented interest. So far about 4.4 million tickets have been sold to Japanese residents; ticket applications during a first lottery were 16 times the number available. A final round of ticket sales are on a first-come, first-served basis.
Domestic demand has also outnumbered supply for the Paralympic Games, which will begin Aug. 25. Amid more than 3 million ticket requests, some 600,000 were sold. The second lottery began Jan. 15.
A total of 43 venues will be used for the Games. Construction of all but one of the eight new facilities built by the government is complete. The Tokyo Aquatics Centre is expected to be completed this month.