A year after winning Olympics, Tokyo faces hurdles in move from bid to build

Mon Sep 8, 2014 7:41am EDT
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By Elaine Lies

TOKYO (Reuters) - Tokyo's 2020 Summer Olympics were meant to be different: compact, on budget and on time.

But now, as the Japanese capital moves to leap from bid to building a year after winning the games, the optimism is ebbing.

The National Stadium, built when Japan hosted the Olympics in 1964, symbolizes the woes. Set to be demolished two months ago for a sleek new venue, it stands empty, its seats ripped out, waiting for a deal to bring the wrecking ball.

The city won the Games over Madrid and Istanbul by emphasizing Japan's organizational strengths and $4.5 billion in the bank. The rejoicing over the victorious bid on Sept. 7 last year - Sept. 8 in Japan - coincided with a surge of optimism over Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's economic revival plans.

Abe put his personal prestige on the line with a vow to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to put on the best Games ever.

But now, even as "Abenomics" appears to be sputtering, the Olympics face ballooning costs, angry environmentalists and a fading vision of a cosy, downtown event.

"With the rivals we had, and evidence of problems for the games in Sochi and Rio, there was a sense in the IOC that they wanted the Olympics held by a place that had its act together," said Hitoshi Sakai, chief executive of the Institute for Social Engineering think tank.

Instead, even demolition of the National Stadium - which half a century ago was filled with the roars of a triumphant crowd at the kindling of the Olympic flame for the 1964 Summer Games – has gone through two rounds of failed bidding.   Continued...

An aerial view shows people sitting in formation to the words "thank you" and displaying signs that collectively read "Arigato" (Thank You) during an event celebrating Tokyo being chosen to host the 2020 Olympic Games, at Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in Tokyo, in this file photo taken by Kyodo September 8, 2013. REUTERS/Kyodo/File