Barcelona "will finally forego presenting an Olympic candidacy" for the 2022 Winter Olympics, according to SPORT. Barcelona Mayor Xavier Trias said on Friday that "a decision had not been made." In "reality, the decision had already been made days before and will be made official on Friday." Too many "aspects would creak in a project that was born during the tenure of former Barcelona Mayor Jordi Hereu." Despite initial criticism, however, the "project had acquired true consistency in recent months." When Trias "became mayor, he promised to move forward with the initiative." For "many, Spain's economic crisis invited caution, and many Barcelona citizens did not understand the project's viability in a moment of financial cuts" (SPORT, 10/13).
Japanese Olympic Committee President TSUNEKAZU TAKEDA barely had time to celebrate Tokyo winning the rights to host the 2020 Summer Olympics before having to dive into the massive task of getting the city ready for its global close-up. Recently, Takeda took time to talk with SBD Global about the bidding process and the challenges ahead.
Q: Shortly after the IOC's decisions to award the 2020 Olympics to Tokyo, media reports called Tokyo's bid the safest choice for the IOC. How did you feel about those reports? And do you agree with this assessment?
Tsunekazu Takeda: Throughout the campaign Tokyo’s bid was often reported as a safe choice. As I’ve said many times before -- Tokyo is a safe pair of hands for the Olympic Movement and this is something to be proud of. The city of Tokyo runs like clockwork, has exceptional experience in hosting major international sport events and is a fantastic stage for the world’s greatest celebration, the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Q: Going forward with less than seven years until the opening ceremony, what are the most important issues you want to tackle right away?
Takeda: A huge amount of work is ahead of us and we want to be ahead of time. Our promise to the IOC is to deliver fantastic Games in 2020. Delivering early will allow us to focus on the ‘extras’ that will make the difference between good and fantastic Games.
Q: Do you already have a sponsorship strategy? Or are you already in talks with potential sponsors?
Takeda: Tokyo 2020’s potential for domestic sponsorship is unmatched. The Tokyo 2020 bid was supported by 21 official partners; many of them major international companies. And you may know that Japanese companies have long had strong enthusiasm toward domestic and international sports events. We estimate that domestic sponsorship eventually could exceed $930 million. The Japanese Olympic Committee currently boasts 29 sponsors in its Gold Partner and Official Partner programs. Our marketing program, including the sponsorship strategy detailed in the Candidature File, was praised by the IOC Evaluation Commission and we are confident that in Tokyo 2020, there will be benefits for all the Games’ stakeholders.
Q: Security has become a major concern. How will you try to ensure the Games will be safe for both spectators and athletes?
Takeda: Tokyo is a safe and secure place. Of course there will be very strict and large safety plans and we will make full use of the world’s largest police force and of its effective and well-coordinated security capabilities. Our Organising Committee will have a Security Department with representatives from all relevant public organizations involved in Olympic security. It will work closely with the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department to facilitate the development of an integrated Olympic Security Plan. However, residents and visitors share a common perception of Tokyo: they find that it offers a safe and secure environment. Domestic safety and security is a testament to values the country shares with the Olympic Movement and with the people of Japan, for whom excellence, friendship and respect are a way of life.
Q: In your Olympic bid, you presented renderings for a new stadium at the site of the old Olympic Stadium as well as a revitalization of the waterfront. How far along are those plans and are you already working with architects and construction companies on concrete plans?
Takeda: Our compact venue plan presents two zones: the Heritage Zone and the Tokyo Bay Zone. Indeed, the majority of the new permanent venues and the Olympic Village will be within the revitalized Tokyo Bay area. For planning and celebration reasons, we wanted the Olympic Stadium in the west of Tokyo, but still very close to the Olympic Village. Regarding the Olympic Stadium, London-based architect Zaha Hadid’s design was selected last year in an international contest and a construction company will be chosen later.
Q: With so many people, Tokyo is obviously very susceptible to traffic congestions. Are there any plans regarding this issue, such as the creation of "Olympic Lanes" used in London last summer?
Takeda: We are experienced at managing major events and we have a world-class transport system. The Evaluation Commission recognized the excellence and scale of our world-leading public transport system. The train network alone manages about 26 million passenger trips a day, on average. Traffic is always lighter in August when people are on holiday and we would improve flows by a further 10% using special management measures, park and ride schemes, and the building of more ring roads (planned irrespective of the Games). To further reinforce transport services during the Games, Tokyo 2020 will lay out an appropriate set of Olympic Lanes and Olympic Priority Routes -- totalling approximately 607km -- connecting competition venues non-competition venues, and training venues, guaranteeing full reliability for Olympic traffic.
Q: As with every big sporting event, hotel prices are expect to rise considerably during the Games. However, Tokyo isn't a cheap city to start with, so will it try to work together with the government to make sure hotel prices stay at reasonable rates?
Takeda: Tokyo’s accommodation plan is exceptionally strong, with approximately 140,000 existing hotel rooms within a 50km radius of Tokyo. Tokyo has a wide variety of room types and categories, which will meet the individual requirements of all guests of the Games. It is important to note that within each hotel category, Tokyo 2020 offers a wide range of room rates and all the hotels selected in the Tokyo 2020 accommodation plan have produced guarantees with maximum 2020 room rates. Tokyo Metropolitan Government plans to collaborate with hotel industry groups and travel agents to form a liaison council to ensure this wide range of reasonably priced accommodation options is available to meet the individual needs of visitors.
Q: According to your bid, you expect the Tokyo Games to cost between $5 billion and $6 billion. How confident are you about those estimates?
Takeda: Tokyo’s OCOG budget will be $3.4 billion and the non-OCOG budget will be divided into public spending for $3.5 billion and $1.4 billion for the private sector. These amounts are forecasted for 2012 with a currency of 88 JPY for one dollar. This is a very reasonable budget and we are very confident the TOCOG budget will be balanced and strictly monitored on a monthly basis. And we have a $4.5 billion Games Hosting Fund available. This is actually more substantial than our projected capital investment. Our budget has been meticulously planned; our plans have been implemented in an economically responsible manner, and Tokyo is a fully developed city that doesn’t require major new infrastructure development. There is no reason Tokyo would run over costs.
Russia on Friday said that "it did not have confirmation of a single country boycotting next year's Sochi Winter Olympics despite a furore over an anti-gay law and vowed to hold one of the best Games ever," according to the AFP. Speaking to the Russian lower house of parliament, Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said that "no country had definitely announced a boycott." Some Western rights activists have called for an int'l boycott of the games after President Vladimir Putin in June "signed a controversial law banning the promotion of homosexuality to minors." Mutko: "So far we do not know of anything, except a statement by one country, and even in that case, the International Olympic Committee has no such information." It "was not immediately clear which country he was referring to" (AFP, 10/12). R-SPORT reported Mutko said that Russia's compact "two-cluster" concept for February's Winter Olympics in Sochi "will make the event one of the best Olympics in history and eliminate tedious travel time that afflicted Vancouver 2010." Russia claims to be holding the most compact Games ever, "with all venues confined to a mountain cluster and a coastal cluster separated by a 30-minute train ride in the Black Sea resort" (R-SPORT, 10/11).
IN INDIA: The Indian Olympic Association will hold its special General Body Meeting in New Delhi on Oct. 27 "to decide on the date of elections" as per the directives of the IOC. A top IOA official said that "the notification for the same was issued on Saturday." The official said, "We have issued the notification today to hold the GBM on October 27" (PTI, 10/12).
While dozens of nations will compete in the games for sporting glory, "the opening ceremonies will provide the host country an opportunity to showcase its own achievements," according to Ivan Nechepurenko of the MOSCOW TIMES. And just as the athletes will face off against one another, "Russia's opening show will inevitably be compared to that of previous Olympics." Given the success of the ceremonies that opened the two most recent Summer Games, Sochi 2014 organizers "face a tough challenge." A source involved in the ceremonies said that "organizers have faced difficulties trying to come up with content that will resonate with international audiences." The source said, "In the case of London 2012, they could use their rock bands, while Russia faces a much tougher challenge." Responsibility for matching the exploits of past Games has been given to Channel One General Dir Konstantin Ernst, "Russia's top media executive." The content of the ceremonies "has been largely kept under a veil of secrecy, but a few details have been leaked to the public." According to a report in Kremlin-connected newspaper Izvestia, the diversity and size of Russia will be represented by a variety of famous historical figures, "such as Tsar Peter the Great, and natural landmarks, including Mount Elbrus in the North Caucasus, the White Sea in the Arctic, the Ural Mountains and Lake Baikal." Iconic Russian avant-garde architecture and art "will also play a role" (MOSCOW TIMES, 10/10).
At first, Sochi's Fisht Olympic Stadium "was meant to resemble a giant snowflake," according to Ivan Nechepurenko of the MOSCOW TIMES. Then, the design "morphed into two parallel mounds of snow." But a roof had to be added for the Opening Ceremonies, "turning the stadium into something looking more like a ski slope." With less than four months before the Sochi Olympics, "Fisht is not any of those things yet." The stadium consists largely of a mammoth white frame that juts out toward the sea, "standing in stark contrast to the five other finished venues that now dominate the landscape of the Imeretinskaya Valley." It "is the only major Olympic facility still under construction." Blogsochi.ru editor Alexander Valov said, "They haven't even started to paint the walls inside or lay floors on the concrete staircases." Started in '09, Fisht "was supposed to be finished by this summer." But the completion date has now been pushed back to the end of the year "due to safety-driven alterations in the design and a desire to produce an exceptional opening show Feb. 7." The stadium's building contractors also face blame for the delays, "with a government agency last year accusing them of intentionally impeding progress to create leverage in negotiating prices for their work." Over the four years since planning began, "the stadium's cost has reportedly more than doubled," to over $750M, while one observer says it now costs more than $1B (MOSCOW TIMES, 10/10).