On Wednesday the 7thof July the International Olympic Committee held a press conference in Lausanne, Switzerland where three cities, Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo, made their pitch to host the 2020 Summer Olympic Games. The event passed off relatively unnoticed and the IOC will now continue their deliberations before announcing the winner in Buenos Aires this September.
As with similar Games, the list of cities applying to host major sporting events continues to outstrip demand. For Madrid and Toyko it’s a case of déjá vu. Both applied unsuccessfully for the 2016 Summer Games. Madrid also applied for the 2012 Games. Baku and Doha have already been eliminated from the 2020 race, while Rome withdrew its bid on the eve of the deadline, citing financial reasons for their exit. Thankfully for all Italians, the Romans seem to be the only one of the six with any regard for the economic consequences of hosting the Games.
If you talk to the bookies they’ll tell you the race is run. The Japanese capital is odds-on with all major betting chains. What might this mean for Tokyo and Japan?
Well for one thing, their national debt is set to rise even further. The Japanese are second only to the United States when it comes to general government debt, with the current estimate just below $13 trillion, approximately $4 trillion less than the US. However, as a percentage of national output, Japan tops the global list of the most indebted countries on the planet, with a debt-to-GDP ratio of over 200%!
So why would a country, already heavily indebted, want to burden itself with even more debt? The answer is simple and was confirmed at the 7th of July press conference by Japan’s Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso.
Mr Aso told the waiting media the Games were a chance for Japan to “rise up” from the 2011 tsunami, “strengthen”the “spirit” of all Japanese people and “show the rest of the world how far we have recovered”. He continued by stating a successful bid would provide “hope and encouragement for the future” for all Japanese citizens. In a nutshell, if Tokyo wins, the Japanese will be happier.
Mr Aso would do the Japanese people and future generations a far better service if he tackled the countries crippling public debt. Unfortunately, this would probably get him booted out of office at the next election. Bringing the Summer
Olympic Games to the Land of the Rising Sun is a certain vote-winner. The Spanish are in a similar precarious financial position. The last thing they need is further pressure on already strained public finances. Ironically, getting
these games could be the worst thing to happen Istanbul, Madrid or Tokyo. Look no further than the Greeks.
If governments want to make people happy, surely there are cheaper ways of doing so. Alternatively, they could all take a leaf out of the Italian’s book. After all wild-olive leaves, not gold medals, are the mark of the original Olympic champions. Governments should forget about spending billions of dollars on an extravagant ‘party’ and concentrate on what really matters. Now that would give us all “hope and encouragement for the future”.