Budgets and ban: The rocky road to Tokyo 2020

TOKYO (AFP) – From the high of winning the right to host the Games to the depths of a plagiarism scandal and a stadium debacle, the path to the 2020 Olympics has been far from smooth. But with six months to go Tokyo has overcame the nearly all the obstacles and is on schedule.

Here, AFP Sport chronicles the significant events on Tokyo’s rocky road to the Games.

2013: TEARS OF JOY

TV news presenters burst into tears and thousands of people erupted in screams of delight when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) awards the Games to Tokyo in September 2013.

With emotions high, many Japanese turned their thoughts to the thousands of victims of a devastating earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 as the Olympics were seen as a golden opportunity to rebuild.

Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowed Tokyo would be a “safe pair of hands” with a reputation for efficiency and competence.

2015: STADIUM SCRAPPED

Embarrassment for Abe as he is forced to tear up blueprints for the proposed national stadium when costs ballooned out of control.

“I have decided we must go back to the drawing board,” a red-faced Abe said in July 2015 after public anger over the USD2 billion price tag which would have made it the world’s most expensive stadium.

2015: LOGO DROPPED

Scandal followed in September 2015 as the logo for the Games was ditched after accusations of plagiarism.

Designer Olivier Debie said the design was stolen from his logo for a Belgian theatre and threatened court action before officials withdrew the emblem, saying it “no longer has public support”.

2018: CUTE MASCOTS

After the logo disaster, there is relief at the smooth rollout of futuristic mascots for the Olympics and Paralympics, chosen by schoolchildren.

Olympic mascot Miraitowa – combining the Japanese words for future and eternity – is a blue-checked, doe-eyed character with pointy ears and useful “special powers” that enables it “to move anywhere instantaneously”.

Its Paralympic counterpart ‘Someity’ sports pink checks derived from Japan’s famous cherry blossoms and is “usually calm, however, it gets very powerful when needed”.

2018: BOXING BLUES

One of the oldest Olympic sports, boxing, faced a Games axe as IOC orders preparations frozen in late 2018 after identifying “legal, reputational and financial risks” with governing body AIBA.

In a move in Olympic history, the IOC later stripped AIBA of its right to run the competition in Tokyo 2020 and said it would organise the boxing tournament itself.

2019: FRENCH CHARGES

French investigating magistrates in January 2019 charge the former head of Japan’s Olympic Committee Tsunekazu Takeda, as they probed two payments totalling USD2.3 million made before and after the Japanese capital was chosen.

Takeda said he was “never involved” in any decision-making process over the payment and stresses he had already protested his innocence during questioning in Paris the previous month.

Tokyo 2020 said it has “no means of knowing the bid committee’s activities”, which occurred before the organising committee was established. Takeda stepped down as head of Japan’s Olympic Committee in June.

2019: MARATHON MOVE

After warnings against holding the marathon in the middle of Tokyo’s sweltering summer, the IOC sprung a surprise in October 2019 by shifting the flagship race to Sapporo, 800 kilometres to the north – and usually cooler in August.

Tokyo 2020 organisers were livid, with Governor Yuriko Koike saying she had no choice but to accept the decision.

2019: BUDGET BLOWOUT

Organisers unveiled the final version of their budget last December, with the Games expected to cost USD12.6 billion, although Tokyo 2020 and the IOC are still wrangling over the cost of moving the marathon.

There had been controversy over the national government’s part of the overall bill, which was supposed to be JPY150 billion but is actually nearly 10 times that, according to the Board of Audit of Japan. Organisers said auditors were counting expenses only tangentially related to the running of the Games.

2019: RUSSIAN BAN

Russia’s participation in the Games was thrown into question last December when anti-doping agency WADA ban the country’s athletes for four years from global events including the Olympics over manipulated doping data. Moscow said it will appeal against the ruling to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

2019: BOLT OPENS STADIUM

More than six months before the opening ceremony, a 68,000 sellout crowd packed into the new Olympic Stadium for the first time with the highlight seeing retired Jamaican sprint superstar Usain Bolt trot gently around the track in a hybrid relay race involving athletes and parathletes.