The 2020 Tokyo Olympic organizing committee drew rave reviews from its future guests after completing its first organized group tour for National Olympic Committees earlier this week. Organizers of Tokyo's second Summer Games have had to weather a number of controversies to date, with issues ranging from an enormously expensive new National Stadium to logo plagiarism accusations and an overall budget that was once said to be ballooning out to ¥3 trillion ($26.6 billion). But such headaches have not detracted from the work being put in behind the scenes by the organizing committee, which the NOCs came to recognize on their visit. Representatives from Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and New Zealand participated in a three-day guided visit to 26 of the Tokyo Games venues. Four more similar tours will be conducted in the lead up to 2020, with a seminar attended by all 206 NOCs to be held one year before the Olympics open.
Unpaid Olympic volunteers do almost everything: guide athletes around, greet dignitaries and translate for lost fans. International Olympic Committee officials acknowledge the games couldn't be held without them -- invariably smiling, helpful and praised by presidents, prime ministers and monarchs. The billion-dollar Olympics are awash with cash. But volunteers work for free. That's the case at next year at the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, where about 80,000 volunteers will be needed.
A flame from the 1964 Tokyo Olympic torch that was supposed to be kept alight eternally actually went out four years ago, red-faced officials confessed on Monday. The flame, housed in a sports training facility in the southwestern Japanese city of Kagoshima, has been touted as a "sacred Olympic flame" since 1964 and received widespread media coverage when Tokyo was awarded the 2020 Games. But it turns out the flame went out in November 2013, two months after Tokyo won the Games, and was hastily re-lit, according to the then head of the facility. "At that time, I could not say something that could destroy (people's) dreams," added the official, who declined to be named. "I saw with my eyes that the flame went out on Nov. 21," he added.
The budget for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics may be revealed as early as Dec. 21, when the cost-reviewing group will meet via a teleconference, according to an organizing committee source. The working group, made up of the International Olympic Committee, the Tokyo organizing committee and the central and metropolitan governments, is expected to announce a figure larger than the ¥734 billion declared during the bidding process. At a previous gathering of the parties on Nov. 29, the organizing committee reported that the overall price tag would likely be below ¥2 trillion, but the IOC demanded further cuts. At their Dec. 21 meeting, the parties are also expected to announce a final decision on the volleyball venue, choosing between building a new facility called Ariake Arena near Tokyo Bay or using the existing Yokohama Arena.
Japan has become well-known for its omotenashi (hospitality), with the concept being part of Tokyo's pitch when it bid to host the 2020 Olympics. But this year's record heat wave, which has so far killed more than 100 people and led to tens of thousands more being rushed to the hospital, has raised concern that some foreign visitors to the games may not find the games as hospitable as organizers had hoped. Fears have been rekindled over what experts say will likely be a sweltering 2020 Games, which will start on July 24 and finish on Aug. 9. Tokyo is now facing significant pressure to hammer out measures to combat the searing heat, including a potential revival of daylight saving time. With the games just two years away, what can Tokyo do to minimize the risk of heatstroke? Could it possibly push the event back to a cooler time to avoid the hottest period of the year?