The 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo: Opportunity or risk?

In two years, the next Olympic Games will be hosted in Tokyo. That is why hwtk vice president Prof. Gabriele Mielke travelled to Japan: On 25 August 2018, at the ‘2 Years to Go’ countdown ceremony to the 2020 Games, she presented her research findings on the potential positive or negative effects of the so-called event legacy that can be triggered by the Olympic Games.

The host city usually expects mostly the economy but also tourism to be affected. In the medium and long-term, successfully hosting the Games could mean a strong boost to the already booming tourism industry in Japan, making the country a highly desirable destination. This would be a powerful economic driver for the expanding tourism industry and stagnating Japanese economy, according to the organisers of the Tokyo Olympic Games. Tokyo has been busy with preparations since the official announcement. As one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world, Japan naturally wants to present itself in a favourable light. Especially bold projects, such as running a fully autonomous public transport system by the start of the Games, are what one expects of Japanese ambition. Five new Olympic sports will also be making their debut at the 2020 Tokyo Games: baseball (for men) and softball (for women), karate, sport climbing, skateboarding and surfing. But hosting the Olympics does not always guarantee positive effects, as was evident in the case of the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, where it has since become clear that Brazil, with its repeated economic and political crises, could perhaps have spent the money better elsewhere.

‘I think what Tokyo can learn from Rio is that without a compelling case for legacy, a city should not host the Games. Because it is a really expensive venture, and only a well-structured, tangible, clear legacy can justify the public spending on an adventure like this’ (2016 Rio Olympics Spokesman, Mario Andrada).

Most of Japan is very excited about hosting the Games. Factors such as well-functioning technical solutions, safety, good collaboration and the long-term planning of event legacy will have a deciding influence on how the hosting of the 2020 Games plays out.