The International Olympic Committee recently chose Tokyo over Istanbul and Madrid as the site for the 2020 Olympic Games. Despite great anticipation over the prospect of Istanbul becoming the first predominantly Muslim city to host the Olympics, recent anti-government protests combined with regional instability emanating from the Syrian conflict pushed the IOC to deem Tokyo the safest of bid cities, according to the Washington Post.
Though it is easy to express excitement for this event, it is important to recognize that the Olympics could potentially become burdensome for Japan in the years to come.
Dubbed the “Curse of the Olympics,” host countries frequently go into economic shambles following the games. In 2009, the Telegraph reported that Beijing “suffers from the curse of the Olympics” after hosting the games in 2008.
According to CBC News, “government figures show Britain is still mired in recession despite all the recent Olympic spending.”
The amount of money spent developing infrastructure to host for just a few short weeks sends these nations into debt. The Montreal Olympics of 1976 take the cake for experiencing the worst post-Olympics failure. According to CBS News, the city went 796 percent over budget, and painstakingly continued to pay off its debt until 2006. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, Athens had a similar situation — the host city for the 2004 Olympics is estimated to have spent about 5 percent of Greece’s GDP on the Games, leaving the economy in ruins and even contributing to its recent economic crash.
Many Japanese people savored the good news. After all, many hoped for the bid after the devastating earthquake that struck the country in March of 2011. According to the Wall Street Journal, they were ecstatic that the Olympics would give Japan the economic boost it needs to help it shake off its lagging economy and rebuild from the consequences of the recent natural disaster.
But in a country that is still struggling to clean up the aftermath of the earthquake and nuclear fiasco, the Olympics will do more harm than good. Out of 37 venues planned for the Games, the city has promised to construct 22 from scratch. It expects to spend an estimated one billion dollars on refurbishing the stadium from the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, according to CNN.
Total construction cost is expected to come in at about $4.1 billion. It is not appropriate to spend this money for what is essentially a large party that lasts for a few weeks. There are no guarantees that it will benefit a country suffering from a straggling economy, declining population and an aging demography — just to name a few of Japan’s many problems.
Though it is easy to rejoice, the Japanese people should examine the reality of the issue: Following initial hype and euphoria lies a serious dilemma.
Shoko Oda is a junior majoring in international relations and East Asian area studies.
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