Breakingviews - Tokyo brings home the Olympic gold in 2020

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, Tokyo 2020 President Yoshiro Mori, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach and Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attend the 'One Year to Go' ceremony celebrating one year out from the start of the summer games at Tokyo International Forum in Tokyo, Japan July 24, 2019. REUTERS/Issei Kato

HONG KONG (Reuters Breakingviews) - Tokyo will top the sporting podium in 2020. Host cities for the summer Olympics are often saddled with large debts, and cases of mismanagement have stretched from Montreal to Rio de Janeiro. Yet Japan is setting new standards in sponsorship and sustainability. Add on a boost from short-term stimulus, and the Land of the Rising Sun is set to bring home host gold.

The games come with outsize economic costs. Los Angeles ended up turning a profit in its 1984 event, a rare feat in recent times. Brazil extended a $850 million emergency state loan to Rio in 2016, and others have grappled with post-competition maintenance costs for abandoned facilities.

True, Team Japan hasn’t been perfect. Tsunekazu Takeda, former president of the country’s Olympic committee, stepped down in March on allegations of suspected corruption, putting governance front and centre. And the cost of hosting had also swelled to $12.6 billion as of December 2018, according to Reuters, up from an original estimate of under $7 billion. Still, most countries aren’t in it to pocket a financial profit.

Tokyo is leading the race elsewhere, racking up more than $3 billion in domestic sponsorships, three times more than any previous summer games. And the city is sending a timely message about the environment: Medals have been made entirely from the parts of 6.2 million used mobile phones, and electricity during the games will also come from renewable sources, according to organisers aiming for a carbon-neutral competition.

Robots, ferrying people to their seats and carrying food and luggage, will also showcase Japan’s technological prowess. In July, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach noted that Tokyo was better prepared than any city he has seen before. So, the city is on track to score a big win.

An influx of games-related tourism infrastructure spending will also give Japan a much-needed boost, even if it proves short-lived. The world’s third-largest economy has slowed, growing at an annualised 1.8% in the third quarter and prompting Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to call for stimulus measures to maintain the country’s economic competitiveness beyond the Olympics. In the games at least, it’s going for gold.


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