Tuesday, September 10, 2013
EDITORIAL: Tokyo Olympics Should Consider Japan's Future
TOKYO (Nikkei)--The Olympics are not merely a sporting event, but a momentous occasion that can mark a turning point in the history of the host country, as demonstrated by the Games that Tokyo staged half a century ago. Winning the bid to host the 2020 Olympics should be seen as an opportunity to think about Japan and its cities seven years from now.
In its campaign for the bid, Tokyo stressed its ability to carry out a safe and secure Olympics as well as the power of sports to inspire younger generations and give hope to people in areas devastated by the earthquake and tsunami of March 2011.
In Tokyo's final presentation before the International Olympic Committee's vote to choose the 2020 venue, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, "The situation is under control," referring to the issue of radiation-tainted water leaking from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
There is strong international concern about the radiation issue, and Abe's remark was not entirely reassuring. As such, the government should promptly bring the Fukushima problem under control as its first task related to the 2020 Olympics.
The 1964 Tokyo Olympics improved the capital city's feeble infrastructure to an international level and left an urban foundation that underpins the Japanese economy. But development projects for the Olympics also demolished the historical waterfront space and streetscapes inherited from the Edo Period (1603-1867).
Expressways built in Tokyo at that time now need to be renewed, and other infrastructures have noticeably aged as well.
But it is necessary to transform Tokyo into a city that is also excellent in terms of scenery by increasing the amount of parks and roadside trees while maintaining the safety of infrastructures.
Tokyo is one of leading international cities in the world. But it ranked only seventh among major world cities by the number of international conferences hosted in 2011. Tokyo was not even first in Asia, trailing Singapore and Seoul.
Japan still has a long way to go before clearing its target of becoming a tourism-oriented nation, despite an increase in the number of foreign tourists.
The country has numerous attractive qualities that visitors will appreciate once they experience them, such as smooth travel thanks to punctual train services and the widespread use of automated doors. Streets are clean and safe. There is also a wide variety of restaurants available, ranging from luxurious to cheap but delicious.
The huge number of people expected to visit Japan for the 2020 Olympics will provide a good opportunity to show these qualities to the world.
The Olympics will attract foreign tourists speaking a variety of languages. In seven years' time, we can expect to see more advanced mobile information terminals allowing easy access to digital maps prepared in various languages. Free access to the Internet will be possible at a large number of locations, enabling people to view scenes and information of places via their mobile devices.
Such services are already possible and their use for tourists should be promoted while increasing foreign-language displays and information centers. The improvement of related software is indispensable for attracting tourists from abroad.
Desirable, high-quality souvenirs that help foreign visitors understand Japanese culture will also contribute to the future promotion of tourism outside Tokyo.
Staying Within Means
The successful bid for the right to host the 2020 Olympics will favorably affect Japan's efforts to put an end to its prolonged deflation and achieve sustainable economic growth.
But it should not be taken as an endorsement of massive spending on public works projects. The government should make clear how the related budget will be used so that the event stays within its means, as is appropriate for a mature nation.
(The Nikkei, Sept. 10 morning edition)