It was not supposed to turn out like this.
When Japan was awarded the 2020 Summer Olympics on September 7, 2013, the country was only six months removed from a Level 7 nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.
There was a belief that their bid would fall through as a result. It didn’t. They gave reassurances that Tokyo was safe from radiation, and the contaminated water leaks into the Pacific Ocean were of no threat to Tokyo’s residents.
Okay. Fine. Good.
Japan had submitted a bid for the 2008 and 2016 Olympic Summer Games, respectively, but had come up short each time. Bids aren’t cheap. They’re budget for the 2016 bid was $150 million. They’re budget for the 2020 bid was half of that.
So, here was a country that had tried, repeatedly, to bring the entire world back to Japan for an Olympics. And they finally did. Jubilation!
The Government hoped to attract 8.5 million tourists during the event. Just think about that.
The Olympics are only 17 days. All of those tourists, plus all of the Japanese people who are going to flock to Tokyo to be a part of the world’s greatest sporting spectacle.
Cash is King. Think of all that potential revenue. Every dollar is coveted.
The original budget for the Games was around $7.4 Billion.
The budget, now, is $15.4 Billion.
However, it is said that spending is currently over $20 Billion.
The postponement cost them $2.8 Billion.
To put that in perspective, the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro cost $13 Billion. They were a financial disaster. Three months after the Games ended, the state was broke. Six months after it ended, facilities were starting to fall apart.
Venues went unused and private owners couldn’t be found to run them.
All you have to do is look up deserted Olympic venues on Google and you’ll be hit with them right away. The YouTube videos are eerie.
Rio wasn’t the first place this happened. It happens just about everywhere. Look up what became of the venues in Athens, Greece after the 2004 Summer Olympics.
It’s sad, really.
It’s as if 100 students were at a house party – didn’t even know whose house it was – trashed the place, and left before the cops showed up.
The Olympics are expensive. Facilities are expensive. Sure, it’s great when fans are coming through the turnstiles and sitting in seats. But what about when they aren’t? Someone still has to maintain that facility. That costs money.
And if there is no plan to maintain it, or if there is no plan to convert it into something useful beyond major sporting events, then it’s just going to sit there and rot.
Countries are lucky if they break even on the Olympics.
But the Olympics are so much more than money, right? Right!
They are about competition, unity, culture, and so much more. I mean that, sincerely.
For the host country, they can galvanize a nation. I still remember the impact the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver had on Canadians. You don’t forget the feelings you had, or where you were when big moments happened.
Those Olympics moulded us.
There was so much pride and excitement. It was like we had renewed our Canadian nationality vows and were reminded why we love Canada.
COVID-19 has taken away many things over the last year and a half. As a result, Japan doesn’t get to experience the Olympics the way they had hoped. All the anticipation that had been building, since 2013, won’t be completely fulfilled.
Tokyo is under its fourth state of emergency. Protestors outside the stadium could be heard from inside, during the Opening Ceremony. Many feel as though the Government put the Olympics ahead of the health and safety of its people.
You know what, that’s a fair complaint.
I should note that Japan can’t pull out of the Olympics on their own. Only the International Olympic Committee can cancel the Olympics. That’s the contract.
Unfortunately, this is about money. I’m sorry I have to say that because of course, the health and safety of everyone should be the top priority at all times, especially during a global pandemic.
But, I’ll say it again – unfortunately, this is about money.
There are Billions at stake, in terms of broadcasting contracts. I know some people don’t want to hear that, but it’s the truth. And without any fans in the stands, some money needs to be recouped somewhere.
The economic losses are already going to be devastating. Japan is going to feel this for decades.
Sure, there are still sponsors, but not as many as there would have been. Toyota – Japan’s top automaker, pulled their advertisements a few days ago as to distancing itself from the negative feelings associated with these Olympics.
There are no fans buying tickets, food, or merchandise (imagine all the merchandise!). No kiosks or booths set up by sponsors. No business for local restaurants and shops. No boost for public transit. Nothing.
Just athletes and thousands of empty seats that have never been sat in.
Tokyo 2020 is a different experience.
The thoughts, feelings, and memories associated with these Olympics will not be what they should have been. Both, from a fan’s perspective and an athlete’s perspective.
Personally, I find that really sad and unfortunate.
What are your thoughts on the Olympics? What do you remember from the time(s) your country hosted the Olympics?