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Is Tokyo Ready for the Olympic Juggernaut?

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This is not so much a prophesy as it is a prediction: the city of Tokyo is in serious trouble. We are headed to “The Electric Town” this week to look at how this modern metropolis of more than nine million people is preparing to host the 2020 Summer Olympics exactly one year before the five-ring juggernaut rolls into town. To be clear, the Olympics—and their masters in the International Olympic Committee—are not in trouble. They will nest in Tokyo’s five-star hotels, avoid traffic in special Olympic driving lanes and gather a mighty profit. But, if recent history is any guide, the city and its residents are in for a very rough ride.

We are heading to Tokyo to report on the preparations underway for (and growing resistance against) next year’s games, but even before we land there are some things we can be sure about. One is that the debt to be incurred from the Games could have a perilous effect on Japan’s economy. The country is already weighted down by debt, with Forbes magazine publishing breathless articles about “when Japan’s debt crisis will implode.” The 2020 Olympics costs have exploded, now in the range of $30 billion, four times the original cost projections. After a slew of bad press, Tokyo organizers have claimed that they’ve made extreme budget cuts, but as sports economist Andrew Zimbalist noted, many of these cuts were fictitious. And the cuts the organizers have made have largely been on essentials related to the experience of fans and athletes, like new transportation infrastructure for the games.

$30 billion might seem like a drop in the bucket for a country whose total debt stands at over $11 trillion, but taking on any water at this point could prove deeply harmful politically and economically. It could mean even steeper cuts to social services, which is a recipe for social conflict. We don’t need to look further than the fallout following the 2016 Olympics in Rio to see just how combustible a bloated Olympics can be for a struggling economy. 

Speaking of conflict, anti-Olympic dissent is already percolating in Japan. While we are there, we’ll be attending a demonstration on July 24, the one-year mark before the Olympics kick off, where people from Olympic cities across the world—past, future, and prospective—are coming together to protest against the cost, displacement, and militarization that the Games bring. We’ll attend a conference and workshops organized by activists who have been resisting the excesses of the Olympics. And we’ll travel to Fukushima, the site of the horrific 2011 nuclear meltdown, and future home of Olympic baseball and softball games as well as the site where the Olympic torch relay will begin. We will also be looking at areas of the city that are being upended by the Olympics.





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Thanks !

Thanks for sharing this, you are awesome !