Tokyo Olympics reach six-months-to-go mark with fireworks

  • ASEAN+
  • Friday, 24 Jan 2020

The Olympic rings are displayed off the shore of the Odaiba Marine Park as fireworks lit up the sky during the Tokyo 2020 Year Commemorative Ceremony in Tokyo on Friday (Jan 24) to mark six months before the opening of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. - AFP

TOKYO: Tokyo put on a flashy fireworks display on Friday to mark the six-months-to-go milestone for this year's Olympics.

The show took place high above a barge stationed in Tokyo Bay that supports a massive replica of the five Olympic rings, a reminder the games are almost here.

Japan residents needed to enjoy the fireworks. These may be the last for awhile.

More than 70 summer festivals across Japan featuring traditional fireworks shows have been canceled or have changed their dates. The Associated Press counted at least 56 festivals that said the Tokyo Games were the reason for the move, citing a shortage of police and security guards that have been assigned instead to the Olympics and Paralympics.

The Olympics are a massive security drain. Tokyo organisers say 50,850 police, private security, military, volunteers, coast guardsmen and emergency services personnel are needed. Organizers show a budget of US$800mil for security - US$500mil in public money.

The cost is surely much higher with some security expenditures not represented in the Olympic budget.

The Olympics are even impacting Hiroshima in western Japan, where the annual August fireworks festival on the scenic island of Miyajima has been cancelled.

"Many of the local authorities, including the Hiroshima prefecture police, coast guard and private security companies, will be mobilized to the Olympic venues and areas around them, which makes it very difficult to ensure safety on Miyajima island," the Hiroshima prefecture tourism bureau said in a statement.

The summer fireworks festivals share a special place in Japanese culture, much like July 4th celebrations across the United States.

Tokyo has brought forward several of its festivals, including the massive display on the Sumida river. The city of Saitama, north of Tokyo, has decided to cancel its 150-year-old fireworks festival because it conflicts with Olympic golf. And in Kamakura, known for its giant Buddha statue, July fireworks are off because logistics clash with Olympic sailing.

The Tokyo Olympics are unprecedented in many ways.

Ticket demand for Japan residents exceeds supply by at least 10 times; probably 20 times.

Local sponsorship is just over US$3bil, at least two times larger than any previous games.

And the US$1.43bil national stadium by Kengo Kuma is a jewel. It's green and wood exterior feels like it's been there forever, promising to be the centrepiece - much the way Kenzo Tange's Yoyogi Gymnasium was for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

"Assuming there is no disaster with the heat or so forth, the Olympics will be well-handled," David Leheny, a political scientist at Waseda University in Tokyo, said in an interview with the AP. "They are not going to be any worse in terms of the chaos of getting from place to place than most Olympics. They will probably be handled better in a lot of ways. And Japan can be charming."

Japan is officially spending US$12.6bil to put on the Olympics, but the national audit bureau puts the figure closer to 3 trillion yen - about US$28bil.

What's a developed country like Japan getting for its money?

"Japan risks getting eclipsed if all people talk about is both the rise of China, and Japan being stuck in its two or three lost decades," Leheny said.

"This is an opportunity to host the Olympics and showcase a Japan that puts on a first-rate show. To represent Japan as a place that is technologically savvy, but culturally distinctive and filled with creative people."

The other mission is to convince the world that Fukushima prefecture has recovered. The area, roughly 250km(150 miles) northeast of Tokyo, was devastated by the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and the meltdown of three nuclear reactors. Thousands still struggle, many in temporary housing. - AP
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Tokyo , 200 , Olympic Games , Six-months to go , Fireworks


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