As Games end, eyes turn to Tokyo 2020

The Myanmar Times - - Sport -

THE peo­ple of Tokyo have spent the past two weeks watch­ing the Olympics with in­creas­ing con­fi­dence that the myr­iad prob­lems that have dogged the Games will make Rio an easy act to fol­low.

Though Ja­pan’s road to host­ing the next Sum­mer Games in 2020 has been marred by its own share of em­bar­rass­ments, the feel­ing is that Tokyo’s woes pale in com­par­i­son to those of the South Amer­i­can me­trop­o­lis.

There, tourists, of­fi­cials and ath­letes have had to dodge the scenic city’s no­to­ri­ous street crime and vi­o­lence, while struc­tural prob­lems in­side the Olympic Vil­lage have also been a chal­lenge.

Tokyo cit­i­zens, while too po­lite to crit­i­cise the cur­rent hosts di­rectly, are up­beat about their city per­form­ing bet­ter.

“I will be de­lighted if we host an Olympics where ev­ery­one stays safe and goes home think­ing, ‘Oh, I am glad I came to Ja­pan,’” said Akiko Sasanuma, 79, watch­ing the Rio Games on a gi­ant screen at a spe­cial out­door pavil­ion in a leafy Tokyo park.

There is a high chance of that hap­pen­ing. The 2020 Games were awarded on ex­pec­ta­tions that Tokyo would be a model of ef­fi­ciency, with the city tout­ing it­self as “peace­ful, re­li­able, safe and sta­ble”.

“Tokyo has every­thing and it’s a very safe town,” said Toshiyasu Fu­ruya, 45, who works in the heart of the city and com­mutes from sub­ur­ban Kana­gawa.

To be fair, Tokyo boasts ad­van­tages that Rio, lo­cated in an emerg­ing coun­try suf­fer­ing from un­even lev­els of de­vel­op­ment, just doesn’t have.

It is the cap­i­tal of the world’s third-largest econ­omy, a cen­tre of ad­vanced high-tech ef­fi­ciency. It hosted the Olympics back in 1964 and jointly hosted foot­ball’s World Cup with South Ko­rea in 2002.

And though its metropoli­tan conur­ba­tion is the world’s largest with more than 35 mil­lion peo­ple, streets are safe, trains run on time and the air is clean.

That doesn’t mean Tokyo is trou­ble free. There is crime and the city has seen some sen­sa­tional cases in­clud­ing grisly mur­ders and a sarin gas at­tack on its sub­way in 1995.

But with strict gun con­trol and a public hon­esty vis­i­tors find dis­arm­ing, few peo­ple ex­pe­ri­ence se­ri­ous crime.

Tokyo folk reg­u­larly leave ex­pen­sive smart­phones on cafe ta­bles when get­ting up, know­ing they will still be there when they re­turn.

Ja­panese me­dia have noted Rio’s propen­sity for crime.

“Rob­bery and theft tar­get­ing tourists shows no sign of de­cline,” Jiji Press re­ported, not­ing that in the Olympics’ first week Ja­panese na­tion­als were the vic­tims in at least nine cases.

Hi­nata Wada, 14, who lives just north of Tokyo, said that the Olympics are a chance for out­siders to ex­pe­ri­ence the kind­ness of Ja­pan’s peo­ple and the sparkle of its cap­i­tal city.

“It’s vi­brant,” she said. “It’s the cen­tre of Ja­pan. It’s ex­cit­ing.”

Tokyo is a cen­tre of youth cul­ture, in­clud­ing anime car­toons, video games and eclec­tic street fash­ion.

It’s also a haven for global food­ies and boasts 13 Miche­lin three-starred restau­rants which sit hap­pily along­side tra­di­tional cul­ture such as kabuki theatre and sumo wrestling.

One con­cern is Ja­pan’s propen­sity for deadly earth­quakes. But it is vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble to pre­dict ex­actly when they will oc­cur and the city can ar­guably boast of be­ing best pre­pared for a ma­jor nat­u­ral dis­as­ter.

Tokyo’s ur­ban con­ve­nience should please for­eign vis­i­tors, said Yoshi­hide Tom­i­naga, 48, a former res­i­dent who now teaches ur­ban en­vi­ron­men­tal en­gi­neer­ing at a col­lege in north­ern Ja­pan.

“These are things in which Ja­pan over­whelm­ingly out­shines oth­ers,” he said, stress­ing its seam­less public trans­port and po­lite ser­vice in stores.

“I think those are uniquely Ja­panese ex­pe­ri­ences that you won’t see any­where else,” he said.

Since be­ing awarded the 2020 Games three years ago, Tokyo’s bid has faced a series of prob­lems, in­clud­ing be­ing forced to re­design its sta­dium, over costs, and the of­fi­cial logo amid al­le­ga­tions of pla­gia­rism.

More se­ri­ously, French pros­e­cu­tors have launched an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into al­leged bribes linked to Tokyo’s win­ning Olympic bid, which or­gan­is­ers have de­nied.

Yuriko Koike, who was elected in July as Tokyo’s first fe­male gov­er­nor, has or­dered of­fi­cials to rein in bal­loon­ing costs.

“I want to make it an Olympics where ath­letes com­pete in a pleas­ant en­vi­ron­ment and it is cel­e­brated by res­i­dents of Tokyo, Ja­pan and the rest of the world,” she said. –

Photo: RJ Vogt

Tokyo is one of the most ef­fi­cient ci­ties in the world, and many think the 2020 Olympics will run more smoothly than this year’s Rio Games.

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