The Tokyo Olympics organizing committee said in late November that the 2020 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games could cost as much as ¥2 trillion (US$17.4 billion) — or ¥1 trillion less than the ¥3 trillion price tag that had earlier been feared. Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike should be lauded for making the need to reduce expenses an issue in the course of her efforts to review the planned venues for several Olympic events. But the total estimated cost is still as much as 2.72 times the initial forecast in Tokyo’s 2013 bid to host the games. The organizing committee, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the national government should make further efforts to economize on the preparation and management of the Olympics.

The latest cost estimate was revealed during a four-party meeting of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the organizing committee, the national government and the metropolitan government, in which the parties reviewed the sites for the rowing and canoe sprint events, the swimming competition and volleyball games. Among the participants were IOC Vice President John Coates; former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, head of the organizing committee; Tamayo Marukawa, minister in charge of the Tokyo Olympics; and Koike.

It was agreed that three of the four categories of events — rowing and canoe sprint events and swimming — will be held in new facilities to be built in Tokyo in accordance with the original plan. As to the site for the volleyball matches, Koike asked for more time before making a final decision. Subsequent reports suggest that she is giving up on her idea of using the existing Yokohama Arena to reduce expenses instead of building a planned new volleyball facility in Tokyo’s Koto Ward, as both domestic and international organizations of the sport were opposed to using the old facility.

The biggest issue at the meeting was the site of the rowing and canoe sprint events. In October, Koike visited the Naganuma boat racing course in Tome, Miyagi Prefecture, as a possible alternate venue — an idea that would have fit the concept of using the Olympics to demonstrate the ongoing reconstruction in areas hit by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami. But it was eventually agreed that those events will be held in the planned new Umi no Mori facility in a reclaimed area in Tokyo Bay — and that the Naganuma course will be used for training by rowing and canoe sprint teams prior to the Olympics themselves.

As it turns out, all of the events for which Koike proposed changing the venue will likely be held at the originally planned sites. But at least her efforts to review the event sites had the effect of holding down the overall expense for the 2020 Olympic Games, which were threatening to bloat without proper checks.

A September estimate by Koike’s team said the total cost could reach as high as ¥3 trillion. At the November meeting, she said the cost of the Umi no Mori site can be reduced from the original ¥49.1 billion to ¥29.8 billion and that the seating capacity for the planned Olympics Aquatics Center in Koto Ward, the site of the swimming competition, will be cut to 15,000 from the planned 20,000, lowering its construction cost to ¥51.4 billion from ¥68.3 billion. The estimated maximum savings at the two sites alone should reach ¥36.2 billion. Hopefully, Koike’s efforts will goad the concerned parties into engaging in strict and serious efforts to keep all possible Olympic costs as low as possible.

In Tokyo’s 2013 bid, the total price tag for the games was estimated at ¥734 billion. The organizing committee argues that comparisons with the latest estimate are irrelevant because that figure did not include security and transportation expenditures to be shouldered by the national and local governments. Still, all of the relevant parties should continue to search for areas in the planning where costs can be trimmed further. They should bear in mind that the IOC was of the opinion that the ¥2 trillion figure was still high. The organizing committee should disclose a breakdown of all expenses, which would help various parties determine and propose where and how costs can be pared.

It is important for all of the parties involved in preparing for the Olympics to develop a cooperative relationship. They should maintain close communications and join hands with each other to hold down the overall cost — which would comply with the original concept of organizing a “compact” Tokyo games on a small budget. They need to keep in mind that an inexpensive event is what the IOC is pursuing in order to keep the modern Olympic movement alive — as the rising cost of organizing the games discourages many cities around the world from bidding for them.

The News Lens has been authorized to republish this editorial. The original can be found here.

Editor: Olivia Yang