Corruption has come to light… but the “Sapporo Olympics” will not be turning back anytime soon.
Once the host city contract = “rip-off contract” is signed, there is no going back
Haruyuki Takahashi, former director of the Tokyo Organizing Committee for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, was arrested on charges of corruption and bribery. Many people must have wondered, “So it has come out after all,” as the realities of the money and interests surrounding the Olympics have come to light one after another since then.
The arrest of Mr. Takahashi will naturally have an impact on Sapporo citizens’ approval or disapproval of the city’s bid to host the 2030 Winter Olympics and Paralympics.
I think it will have a significant impact.
Tomio Doe, a member of the editorial board of the Hokkaido Shimbun (Doshin), said as much.
In late August, an information program on a commercial TV station in Hokkaido announced the results of an independent survey of Sapporo citizens on the bid for the Olympics: 72% were opposed and 28% were in favor. I am sure that the arrest of the former executive director has had an impact on the results.
In a survey of the citizens of Sapporo conducted in March, 52% were in favor and less than 40% were opposed. The survey was quite problematic, as it asked the respondents whether they understood the city’s ideas and plans, such as “contributing to the realization of a symbiotic society,” “no new facilities,” and “no taxpayer funds,” and then asked whether they were for or against the event in the eighth question. After such a trick, the percentage of respondents in favor was barely 52%.
In an April poll conducted by the Hokkaido Shimbun, which asked Sapporo citizens whether they were for or against the bid, 57% were opposed and 42% were in favor, with the opposition outnumbering the respondents. Even without the arrests, the citizens were not in favor of the bid.
In his column in Doshin, Mr. Doe presented the lessons he drew from the Tokyo Olympics and urged readers not to stand by and watch Sapporo’s bid for the Olympics. This time, however, we asked him for his thoughts and opinions as a journalist, not as a member of the Doshin editorial board.
First of all, the current status of the bidding process is that Sapporo is currently in the first stage of the host site selection process, and the city is in individual discussions with the IOC (International Olympic Committee) Future Host Committee. However, the discussions are taking place behind the scenes, and citizens do not know what is being discussed.
Salt Lake City (U.S.) and Vancouver (Canada) have also expressed interest in bidding for the 2030 games. However, it is said that Salt Lake City is likely to give priority to the 34th Winter Olympics.
The top-priority candidate sites for the 30-year period will be finalized by the end of the year or at the beginning of the new year, and although the IOC says it will make a formal decision on the host city at its general meeting to be held next year, it will be nothing more than a ceremony. After all, the number of candidate cities has been narrowed down to one by the time the second stage of the competition is underway. In other words, the decision will be made in four or five months.
After that, the host city will sign a host city agreement with the IOC. It is also called an “unequal treaty,” in which the host city is unilaterally disadvantaged, but once the contract is signed next year, there is no going back.
Japan, grateful for the Olympics, is a “sitting duck” for the IOC.
Last year, the host city contract that the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the JOC (Japanese Olympic Committee) signed with the IOC drew attention over compensation in the event that the Tokyo Olympics were canceled. The contract included language that read, “Only the IOC has the authority to cancel the event,” and “The IOC will not be held liable for damages or other compensation if the event is cancelled.
About two months before the opening of the Tokyo Olympics, IOC Vice President Coates was asked if he would hold the games even if a state of emergency was declared, and he said ‘yes. IOC Commissioner Pound of Canada said, ‘Unless it’s Armageddon, we can implement it. The reason they can say such things with such arrogance is because of the host city agreement they signed in September 2013.
The arrogance of the IOC officials was met with protest from the public, who asked, “Who do they think they are?
I think we have seen the true nature of the IOC through the uproar from the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics to the hosting of the Olympics.
In 2014, Oslo, Norway withdrew from the bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, despite being considered a serious contender. The main reason was the financial burden, but another significant factor was the revelation in a local newspaper of the lavish entertainment demanded by the IOC.
The host city’s obsequious attitude, which had so far only acquiesced to the IOC’s demands, must have made the executives of that organization into greedy lords. Look at the candidacy file submitted by Tokyo to the IOC, guaranteeing four five-star hotels to IOC officials; I suspect that the IOC saw Tokyo as a sitting duck.
Sapporo is a major contender for the 30-year Winter Olympics. If it signs the host city contract next year, it will open seven years later, barring Armageddon. And if the organizing committee for the Games runs out of funds, the city of Sapporo will make up the difference, and if that is still not enough, the government will guarantee it.
Since the beginning of the 2010s, a number of cities have withdrawn their bids to host the Games after being confronted with opposition in referendums. The City of Sapporo should also confirm the will of its citizens at some stage.
Even before Sapporo Mayor Katsuhiro Akimoto conducted a survey in March, he had expressed his intention to continue the bidding process even if there was a majority of opposition. In an interview with the Doshin newspaper, he also stated that he has no intention of holding a referendum.
Sapporo Mayor Akimoto is avoiding a referendum, fearing a “majority of opposition”!
Demonstration rallies against the bid have been held in Sapporo, and calls for a referendum are growing. Why is Mayor Akimoto refusing to hold a referendum?
He probably knows that support for his bid will fall short of half of the voters. But if the city does not hold a referendum or conduct another survey, and if the city of Sapporo is chosen as the sole candidate to host the games next year, seven years from now, it will surely leave a bad impression.
City officials, however, make the excuse that they want to avoid a referendum or an intention survey because of the negative bias caused by the Tokyo Olympics.
Which way are Mayor Akimoto and the City of Sapporo working?”
The total cost of the Tokyo Olympics ultimately amounted to 1.4238 trillion yen, almost double the estimate of 734 billion yen presented at the bid stage. A series of allegations surrounding the selection of sponsors for the Games have also come to light. With the city of Sapporo not clearly stating the significance of hosting the Olympics, it is only natural that the citizens of Sapporo have a sense of distrust and suspicion.
I was disappointed when I read the “The Future of the City” which is supposed to be the significance of holding the Olympics. It is not a list of Sapporo’s virtues, but rather a list of its shortcomings and challenges. For example, it says that the percentage of people with disabilities who think the city is an easy place to live is low. It seems that the city is trying to solve all its problems at once by inviting the Oripara Games to Sapporo.
The draft outline of the games shows the cost of hosting the games, and it also describes efforts to reduce costs. Instead of being so busy trying to save money, the city can honestly say, “Although the amount of money is large, we will use taxpayer funds because it is necessary for community development. At the very least, I would like the city to have that level of sincerity.
Above all, what the citizens of Sapporo would like to see is a referendum. Whatever their true intentions, the IOC has said that it will place importance on the approval rating of local residents.
The IOC would probably like to decide on Sapporo,” he said, “since Japan is probably the only country in the western industrialized world that appreciates the Olympics. Still, if the IOC has some good sense left in it, it may decide that it is appropriate to forgo it with this level of support.
There are still four or five months to go before a single candidate site is selected. Citizens will continue to demand a referendum from Mayor Akimoto. We will demand that the city use all information disclosure systems to show the process of discussions with the IOC.
Mayor Akimoto and his staff need to remember that they are public servants working for the citizens of Sapporo, not “bagmen” for the IOC.
Mr. Doe is a former sports reporter who covered the Olympics three times. That is why we dared to ask him about it. Does he support or oppose the bid for the Olympics?
He said, “The Olympics are supposed to give dreams and hopes to children, but it puts a burden on children’s future and may tie them down. There is no reason to support an event for which it is unclear what the purpose is.
If Sapporo goes ahead with the bid, it may follow in the footsteps of Tokyo. In order not to leave a negative legacy for our children and not to be seen as sitting ducks by the IOC, the citizens of Sapporo and the people of Hokkaido should firmly express their will to the government. Furthermore, the people of Sapporo should also take the bidding of the Olympics as their own personal matter and appeal to the JOC for “distrust of the Olympics.
Tomio Tsuchie, editorial board member of the Hokkaido Shimbun, was born in Shimane Prefecture in 1960, graduated from the School of Law at Waseda University in 1983, and joined the Hokkaido Shimbun in 1986. After working in the Fukagawa Bureau, the Sports Department, and the Tokyo Political Economy Department, he was stationed in Paris for three years from 2004. After working as an editorial writer, deputy editorial writer, and editorial writer, he became an editorial writer in 2020.
Interview and text： Sayuri Saito Photo by： Aflo