It’s Games on for Tokyo
The 2020 Olympics will be a chance for the capital to shine anew
AT about 4am on the day after the closing ceremony of the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, my already huge respect for Japanese efficiency reached new heights.
Games organisers had battled days of unco-operative weather that had forced repeated postponement of the alpine events, and revealed unsuspected flexibility as they regularly rescheduled transport to the mountains for athletes, officials, media and spectators.
Even so, my friend and I thought our chances of finding the poster of an athlete performing a ski jump we had admired throughout the Games were slim (those on the walls of the media centre had already been souvenired).
When a colleague suggested we try the souvenirs booth in the building’s foyer, we assumed there was little chance it could be open at such an early hour. We were wrong. An elderly lady who had learned English in order to volunteer for the Olympics was at the booth, and we each filled in order forms for the coveted poster. Two weeks later our souvenirs arrived in the post.
It’s this famous attention to detail that has contributed to Tokyo winning the right to host the 2020 Olympic Games, the city’s second time as host. The successful 1964 Games helped restore Japan’s reputation in the eyes of the world post World War II.
In its contest with Madrid and Istanbul for the 2020 honours, the Japanese capital promised it would be a ‘‘safe pair of hands’’, an argument that clearly resonated with the International Olympic Committee in September, when preparations for the 2016 Games in Rio appeared to be chaotic.
There was no question about Tokyo’s transport infrastructure, hotel stock, organisational skills or financial means (the metropolitan government had already put aside $US4.5billion to guarantee the project). The only sticking point was ongoing concern about radiation leaks from the crippled Fukushima nuclear reactor, destroyed by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe moved quickly to give his personal assurance that no radiation has affected, or will affect, the city.
Japan hopes that, like 1964, its host role will prove symbolic, giving it the opportunity to prove itself anew. Under the motto ‘‘Discover Tomorrow’’, organisers hope to showcase Tokyo as a city that unites ‘‘world-class innovation with traditional values’’ using ‘‘the power of sport to offer hope to the Japanese people and promote national spirit, unity and confidence’’.
It is no surprise that Tokyo’s Games plan is immensely practical, with two venue clusters to be created within 8km of the central metropolis to reduce transport times and costs. AHeritage Zone will encompass renovated and redeveloped venues from the 1964 Games and include six competition venues for sports such as athletics, handball and boxing. The ambitious 21-venue Tokyo Bay Zone will comprise a series of manmade islands connected by bridges.
At the north end of Tokyo Bay, a so-called Dream Island precinct will include aquatics, archery, badminton and basketball venues while the central waterfront area will feature another nine venues (cycling, tennis, gymnastics and triathlon) directly across the water from the Olympic Village. Redevelopment of Tokyo Bay as a conference and leisure precinct will be a boon for the Japanese capital, providing stimulus for a moribund economy during the preparation phase and new facilities, housing and tourism attractions following the Games.
Equally big plans are afoot in the Heritage Bay Zone, where the 1964 Games stadium will be the site of a new centrepiece stadium conceived by British architect Zaha Haddid, who designed the aquatic centre for the London Olympics. When completed, it is expected to look like the model for a new Starship Enterprise. Nicole Jeffery is a sports journalist with The Australian and has covered six summer and four winter Olympic Games. The 2014 Winter Olympics will be held in Sochi, Russia.
A jubilant Team Tokyo celebrates, above, and computer-generated images of architect Zaha Haddid’s new Olympic stadium and the athletes’ village