Monday, August 10, 2015

Tokyo Olympics Update: Prime Minister Abe's Party Proposes Not Building a New Stadium, A Demand For A Date Change to Autumn, and Takahashi Calling Current Plan a Fatal Mistake

translated and edited by Brett Larner
source articles linked within text

With just 1809 days left until the start of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics there are at least that many opinions floating around the Japanese media on what to do about the Olympic Stadium and other problems surrounding the Tokyo Olympics.  A sample of weekend articles:

Takahashi Calls for Permanent Sub-Track at Olympic Stadium
2000 Sydney Olympics women's marathon gold medalist and former world record holder Naoko Takahashi, a member of the JOC and JAAF executive committees as well as serving on the Tokyo Olympic Games Organizing Committee Athletes' Commission, appealed directly to the Tokyo Olympics organizing committee's Toshiaki Endo to stress the importance of having a permanent sub-track in the new stadium plans, calling the recent announcement that only a temporary sub-track would be included a "fatal" mistake as it would preempt the stadium being used for future international or national-level competitions.  Takahashi denied that it is not possible to build a permanent sub-track in the area of the planned New National Stadium.

Prime Minister Abe's Ruling Political Party Proposes Not Building New Olympic Stadium
The ruling Jiminto Party led by conservative nationalist prime minister Shinzo Abe issued its position presenting alternatives to building a new stadium capable of staging track and field, soccer and opening and closing ceremonies.  Among them:
  • The "Zero Option" - Use existing facilities without building a new stadium.  Tokyo's Komazawa Stadium could be upgraded to meet Olympic standards for hosting track and field events, or track and field could be hosted at neighboring Yokohama's Nissan Stadium which is already up to code.  Soccer could be staged at Nissan Stadium, Tokyo's Ajinomoto Stadium, Saitama Stadium and other existing facilities.  Olympic standards call for a 60,000-seat stadium for the opening and closing ceremonies, but the proposal called for "new-format ceremonies that escape the confines of the stadium space," such as building temporary stands outside the front entrance of the Imperial Palace to make use of its wide and historic space, IOC permitting.
  • Build a new stadium with a more focused use seating the minimum 60,000.  The stadium would be used for track and field and soccer and would include a roof and temporary sub-track.  The report called the building of a permanent sub-track at the planned site of the new stadium "difficult" due to the lack of available land and said that the 80,000-seat stadium called for by the JFA was simply unnecessary in Japan.
  • Build a new stadium seating 60,000 for use in the opening and closing ceremonies and for soccer, with track and field moving to Komazawa Stadium where the building of a permanent sub-track would be "a suitable component of Tokyo's Olympic legacy."  The report said that a 30,000-seat stadium would be sufficient for track and field and that should Tokyo host a future World Championships a 60,000-seat stadium would be unnecessarily large.
  • The proposal also suggested three different possible courses of public-private sphere cooperation in building and operating the stadium before, during and after the Olympics without using public tax money.  The best use of the stadium would be chosen to maximize revenue post-Olympics, whether dedicating it to baseball or soccer or keeping it for mixed track and field and soccer use.

Former Wrestler Calls for Tokyo Olympics to Be Moved to Autumn After Tokyo Heat Wave"
Amid a record-setting heat wave in Tokyo at exactly the time the 2020 Tokyo Olympics are to be held, at an international conference on safety former wrestler and popular personality Antonio Inoki publicly called for the dates of the Tokyo Olympics to be changed, saying that there was "gross negligence" in the Bid Committee's proposal to the IOC.  Inoki objected specifically to language in the proposal that claimed that from July 24 through August 9 in Tokyo, "There are many sunny days, and because it is warm it is the ideal climate for athletes to perform up to their best."  "What kind of crazy BS is that?"  Inoki said.  "Today the government issued a statement saying, 'Please do not go outside today.'  How do conditions like that help athletes perform their best?  In this kind of goddamn heat we're not talking about 'Faster, Higher, Stronger,' we're talking about human lives."

Fearing for the safety of marathoners, race walkers and wheelchair athletes and citing the precedent that the 1964 Tokyo Olympics were held in October, Inoki said that the Olympics must be moved to September or later.  The IOC has indicated that a date change is possible, but Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology official Hokubun Shimomura stated that, "The dates have been set in accordance with those of other international competitions held in July and August," and that a special commission on heat measures in May had determined that "heat-suppressing road pavement technology" and "dry mist blowers" would be sufficient to combat the effects of the heat.  Inoki pulled no punches as he responded, "If that's the case then why don't you go out and try running, Mr. Big Shot?  I'll get your shoes and running shirt ready.  It's because of fools who don't know what they're talking about and money-sucking leeches that we're in this situation.  You don't want to move it to the fall because then it would conflict with baseball and football broadcasts in the United States.  If you can change the stadium, you can change the dates."

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