Bid for Olympic Games as a Celebration of Peace, Part 2


by the Olympics Issues Reporting Team

How would we accommodate the athletes and spectators?

"Is this an era where colossal structures must continually be constructed? Perhaps temporary structures will do or the buildings could serve different purposes after the games," suggested Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba at an October 11 press conference, in which he announced the city's intention to consider a bid to host the 2020 Summer Olympic Games. Apparently, Mayor Akiba hopes to share the huge financial burden by co-hosting the games with other cities including the other A-bombed city of Nagasaki. His statement also underscores the mayor's ideal of "restoring the Olympic Games as a celebration of peace, not commercialism."

But a hard reality still exists. Athletes and spectators from more than 200 countries and regions attend the Summer Olympics. If Hiroshima were to host the 2020 Games, one major problem would be the availability of accommodations in the city.

During the bidding process for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, after which Rio de Janeiro was announced as the host city, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) required the candidate cities to secure 40,000 guest rooms within a 50-kilometer radius. Hiroshima has only 11,000 guest rooms within the city (as of 2007).

Near the north exit of Hiroshima Station, not far from the new Mazda Zoom-Zoon Stadium, also known as the Hiroshima Municipal Stadium, construction of a foreign-owned 234-room luxury hotel is now under way. There is the possibility that more hotels will be constructed, but "it still wouldn't be enough" admitted one city official.

The requirements for the stadiums would also be hard to fulfill. Koshi Nemoto, Director for Strategic Planning of the Tokyo 2016 Bid Promotion Office, said, "The IOC has established very exacting requirements for the size of each of the 28 athletic facilities."

For example, an athletic stadium must have a seating capacity of at least 60,000. Tokyo had planned to build a 100,000-seat stadium.

Hiroshima Big Arch, the main stadium for the 1994 Asian Games located in Asakita Ward, Hiroshima, has a capacity of 50,000. In the city of Nagasaki, which is intending to co-host the Games, no existing facility can accommodate even the opening ceremony of a National Athletic Meet, according to Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue.

Hosting the 1994 Asian Games was a bitter experience for Hiroshima. The city had to declare a financial emergency in 2003, after the city government shouldered 8 billion of the total 28.9 billion yen expended for the preparation and operation of the event. Ever since he assumed office in 1999, Mayor Akiba has been intent on reconstructing the financial health of the city. Still, it is estimated that the outstanding balance of city bonds will mount to 965.2 billion yen by the end of fiscal 2009.

Out of 15 billion yen spent for its 2016 bid, Tokyo financed 10 billion yen from a general revenue source of the metropolitan government budget. Another 384.4 billion yen was planned to be borne by the national government and the private sector for the construction of stadiums, improvement of infrastructure and operation of the Games. The initial budget of Hiroshima's general account for this fiscal year is about 550 billion yen, only one-twelfth that of Tokyo.

The Olympic Charter stipulates that only one city from each country can bid for the games. The two mayors are well aware of the high hurdle the charter presents. But the idea of co-hosting the games was the only measure they could devise in order to overcome the financial challenges.

Some cities such as Fukuoka and Kita Kyushu are connected to Hiroshima by bullet train. These cities might be named as prospective partners to share the huge financial burden.

A senior official of Hiroshima City said, "Mayor Akiba's conviction is that there is no point in hosting a conventional Olympic Games in Hiroshima and Nagasaki." The first focus of attention will be on how many cities join the committee that will be established for the purpose of considering a bid to host the Games.

Olympic finances
In the Tokyo Metropolitan Government plan, the total budget of the organizing committee was 310 billion yen, which included construction of temporary stadiums and the cost of operation. The money was to be covered by contributions from the JOC, financial assistance from domestic sponsors and ticket sales. No public funds were expected to be spent, unless the event ran into the red. As for the construction of the new Olympic stadium, the renovation of permanent facilities, such as Tokyo Tatsumi International Swimming Center, and the improvement of urban infrastructure, 384.4 billion yen would have been borne by the metropolitan and national governments and the private sector. The operating cost of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games was 214 billion yen, and the total cost of construction, including facilities for practice, came to 204 billion yen.

(Originally published on October 15, 2009)