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Tokyo faces higher Olympics bill
Publication Date : 20-09-2013
One of Tokyo's trump cards when bidding for the 2020 Olympic Games was its claim that money needed to construct sports venues and other facilities was already in the bank.
But now that Tokyo has won the right to host the Games, it appears that the total bill is likely to bust the initial estimate of 450 billion yen (US$4.5 billion).
New sports venues have to be built and existing ones reconstructed and refurbished. But so too a lot of other infrastructure, from roads to railways, the cost of which appears not to have been factored into the initial budget.
Moreover, the rising cost of building materials and labour, the latter due to a shortage of workers, will bump up the final bill substantially.
Take, for example, a two-stadium facility to be built in the western suburb of Musashino for staging the modern pentathlon.
In July, all seven building consortiums involved in the tender withdrew from the exercise, saying the official budget of 17 billion yen for the project was too low.
Earlier this month, the authorities called again for tenders after raising the budget for the main stadium by 8 per cent and for a smaller stadium by 3 per cent, and this was after deleting frills and downgrading the quality of some building materials.
The main 80,000-seat stadium, designed by world-renowned Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid, will cost the most - 130 billion yen - and is expected to be ready by March 2019.
The athletes' village, to be located in the Tokyo Bay area, is expected to cost 105.7 billion yen.
Other big-ticket items include a centre for badminton, basketball and archery (36.4 billion yen) and a facility for swimming and diving (32.1 billion yen).
For the athletes' village, the government plans to let the private sector fund and build the apartments to house 17,000 people. These will be sold to the public after the Games.
The need to move people quickly between the village and the various venues, even though most are within an 8km radius, is likely to pose a major headache.
The government is rushing to complete the construction of highways and roads leading to the village as well as a new ring road for the capital.
The oldest parts of Tokyo's highway system, which made its debut in the first Olympics hosted by Tokyo in 1964, are now nearly 50 years old and in need of repair.
Traffic congestion may be inevitable. In 1964, Tokyo had only 380,000 registered cars. Today, there are 5.1 million vehicles, or more than 13 times as many.
Anticipating a heavy influx of tourists to Tokyo in the years leading up to the Games, the government plans to increase the number of slots for international flights at the two airports serving the capital - Haneda, which is close to the city centre, and Narita, an hour away by express train.
There are suggestions to add a fifth runway at Haneda, but Tokyo Governor Naoki Inose said this could not be done in time.
"We can convert Yokota Air Base to both military and civilian use before eventually turning it into an international airport. We should not just spend money, but also think outside the box," Inose said in a television programme on Sunday.
Yokota, a US military facility about 40km west of Tokyo, has a 3.3km-long runway that can take wide-bodied commercial aircraft.
There is a suggestion to build an underground station in the city centre to provide a new high-speed rail link that will connect Tokyo to Haneda in 18 minutes and to Narita in 36 minutes.
The government is also set to review the softer aspects of Tokyo's social infrastructure, such as immigration procedures at major airports. Japan fingerprints all foreign arrivals, which could mean long queues with more incoming flights.
**US$1 = 99.31 yen