Japan Olympic Committee Chief Says Games Must Change to Survive

The Tokyo Olympics should become an opportunity to rethink the enormous scale and expense of the world’s largest sports spectacle, the president of the Japanese Olympic Committee said on Monday.

Yasuhiro Yamashita, himself an Olympic judo gold medalist, was speaking just over three weeks ahead of the opening ceremony for Tokyo 2020, which follows a costly delay due to the pandemic.

“This could be a chance to rethink how huge the Olympics have become,” Yamashita told reporters in Tokyo. “Rather than being extravagant and costly, the Olympics will need to change to survive. I hope this will be a turning point.”

The decision in March 2020 to delay the games by a year due to the pandemic added billions of dollars to the cost of staging the event. Japan’s organizing committee estimated the new total cost at about $15.4 billion last December, compared with an earlier estimate of $12.6 billion.

Audits by the Japanese government over the past few years have shown the costs will come to at least $25 billion, the Asahi newspaper reported, a heavy burden for an aging country struggling with debt stemming from ballooning social security costs.

Revenues from the event will be lower than expected, after overseas fans were excluded and the number of domestic spectators was also cut back.

Japan has made various attempts to reduce its spending on what was initially described as a “compact” Olympics, including by abandoning a futuristic design for the main stadium that was alone expected to cost $2 billion.

A study led by Bent Flyvbjerg, a professor at the Said Business School at the University of Oxford, found that all Olympics ended up with cost overruns, with the average games running at 172% of estimates.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.