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Tokyo 2020 Olympics

Tokyo Olympics budget swells to $12bn a year before games

Security and venue buildout push spending, despite cost-cutting efforts

The New National Stadium, site of the opening and closing ceremonies for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, is slated to be completed in November. (Photo by Hirofumi Yamamoto)

TOKYO -- With a year to go until the opening ceremony, the budget for the Tokyo Summer Olympics and Paralympics has ballooned to 1.35 trillion yen ($12.5 billion) despite efforts to curb costs, while security and other issues boost outside expenses.

Event organizers face the task of ensuring that the games go on without a hitch while controlling costs. About 90% of the sporting venue construction has been completed, which is close to the schedule, and ticket sales have begun. The opening ceremony will be held on July 24, 2020.

Roughly 40% of the venues will be outside of Tokyo. This is a far cry from the original 2013 plan, which called for a compact Olympics placing 85% of venues within 8 km of the Olympic Village by building new facilities on the waterfront.

The budget totaled around 700 billion yen back when Tokyo made its bid to host the Olympics, but later estimates put the figure between 2 trillion yen and 3 trillion yen if all planned projects were carried out. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government moved to reduce costs by canceling some projects, such as the construction of basketball and badminton venues on an artificial island, and using existing facilities instead. This led to the announcement of the 1.35 trillion yen figure in December.

Yet event organizers and others continue to face upward pressures on costs.

In May, the Japanese governing bodies for judo and other sports gathered for an Olympics-related meeting in Australia, where officials complained about the venue decorations and spectator engagement efforts.

"They are surprisingly poor," said an official for one of the governing bodies. "The venues of international competitions held in Tokyo every year look much nicer."

These groups have high hopes for the Olympics, given the global attention. "However, there are budgetary limits, so we have to manage by coming up with ideas," an event organizer said.

Weather is another factor. The finals of a surfing competition that began last week on the Chiba Prefecture coast were moved up by one day to Saturday due to concerns of inclement weather from an approaching typhoon.

Though the 2020 Games will face the possibility of a typhoon, a senior official of the Olympic organizing committee said that any decision to cancel or postpone events is difficult, in part because tickets need to be refunded.

Security represents another issue, and many related costs are not included in the Olympics budget. Police have installed 140 surveillance cameras through June along pathways connecting venues with their closest train stations for crowd control and to fight terrorism. The use of more facilities outside Tokyo has raised the costs related to security, and there is no end to countermeasures against increasingly diverse cyberattacks.

The national government is set to shoulder 150 billion yen of the total costs. But it announced in January an Olympics-related budget covering 219.7 billion yen in expenses for fiscal 2013 to fiscal 2019, including the separate security-related spending. The overall costs of the Olympics remain unclear.

"The cost-effectiveness needs to be clarified in order to win the understanding of the people," said Yoshiyuki Mano, professor at Waseda University's Faculty of Sport Sciences. "If the costs have ballooned, the Tokyo government and organizing committee should thoroughly explain why that much money is needed and what legacies will remain."

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