Mayor of town in north Japan bemoans lack of Olympic funds

In this June 11, 2019, file photo, a man walks past the logos of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo. (AP)
Updated 15 September 2019

Mayor of town in north Japan bemoans lack of Olympic funds

  • Tokyo is reportedly spending about $20 billion to prepare the city to host the games
  • Tokyo organizers have faced a series of hurdles as they prepare to host the games

TOKYO: The mayor of a town in northeastern Japan that will host Olympic soccer games says his city has received no funding from the central government that has promised to use the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to help in the reconstruction of the region.

The Japanese government and Tokyo 2020 organizers are hoping to use the Olympics to showcase Japan’s recovery from the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Several Olympic events, including soccer and baseball, will be held in northeastern Japan.

But with less than a year to go before the opening ceremony, Yutaka Kumagai, the mayor of Rifu in Miyagi Prefecture, says his city has seen no funding from the central government.

“There is no help from the government, we don’t have any budget from them, none,” Kumagai said on Saturday. “Tokyo 2020 is said to be a symbol of the reconstruction but when it comes to the budget, we don’t have any budget from the Olympic games here in Rifu.”

Kumagai made the comments during a media tour of Miyagi Stadium, a 49,000-seat facility in Rifu that will host men’s and women’s football at the 2020 Olympics.

About 50,000 people are still displaced in the Tohoku region as of August, according to the Reconstruction Agency. Yoshiaki Suda, the mayor of Onagawa in Miyagi Prefecture, concurred with Kumagai. Like Rifu, Onagawa is a coastal city that sustained heavy destruction.

“We haven’t received any subsidy, even one yen, from the central government,” Suda said. “Whatever we do for the venues, for the hospitality for the Olympics, we have to do ourselves.”

Some media reports have made the claim that the Olympics have hampered the reconstruction efforts, taking workers away from the region to help with construction in Tokyo.

Japan is one of the most earthquake- and tsunami-prone areas in the world. On March 11, 2011, a magnitude 9.0 quake offshore caused a tsunami that triggered meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. The quake and tsunami heavily damaged coastal neighborhoods in northeastern Japan and took more than 18,000 lives.

Tokyo, which projected total costs of about $7.5 billion in its winning bid for the games in 2013, is reportedly spending about $20 billion to prepare the city to host the games.

A group of anti-Olympic activists, many from outside Japan, have held small protests and other events this summer under the Japanese title “Han-gorin no Kai” — which translates roughly to No Olympics. They oppose Olympic spending, which they say cuts into budgets for housing and environmental issues.

They also call for more money to rebuild Fukushima prefecture located northeast of Tokyo. Organizers say Fukushima is a main focus of the Olympics, staging baseball, softball and soccer games there to persuade the world the area is safe.

Tokyo organizers have faced a series of hurdles as they prepare to host the games. In August, Tokyo’s summer heat forced an Olympic women’s triathlon qualifying event to be shortened because of high temperatures that are likely to impact next year’s games.

Tsunekazu Takeda, the head of the Japanese Olympic Committee, was forced to quit earlier this year when he was implicated in a vote-buying scheme to land the games. He has denied wrongdoing, but acknowledged he signed off on about $2 million that French investigators allege went to buy votes.


NBA star Lebron James: Free speech comes with a cost in Morey-China row

Updated 15 min 4 sec ago

NBA star Lebron James: Free speech comes with a cost in Morey-China row

  • ‘Yes, we do have freedom of speech, but there can be a lot of negative that comes with that too’
  • NBA telecasts have been pulled from Chinese television in the aftermath of the dispute

LOS ANGELES: Basketball player LeBron James waded into the dispute between the NBA and China on Monday, saying he believes Daryl Morey went too far when he tried to exercise his right to free speech.
The Los Angeles Lakers star criticized the Houston Rockets GM, saying he was “misinformed” and needed to be educated after Morey tweeted his support for the Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters.
“I don’t want to get into a word or sentence feud with Daryl Morey. But I believe he wasn’t educated on the situation at hand and he spoke,” James said before the Lakers exhibition contest Monday against the Golden State Warriors.
“So many people could have been harmed not only financially but physically, emotionally and spiritually, so just be careful with what we tweet, and we say, and we do.
“Yes, we do have freedom of speech, but there can be a lot of negative that comes with that too.”
James’s Lakers and the Brooklyn Nets were thrust into the controversy when the clubs arrived in China last week to play two exhibition games on October 10 and October 12 amidst turmoil after Morey tweeted, “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.”
Morey’s tweet was in support of the protesters fighting a move by China that would allow extraditions from Hong Kong to mainland China. Human rights has long been an issue in China well before the former British colony returned to mainland control in 1997.
Hong Kong has been rocked since June by protests that were ignited by a now-scrapped plan to officially allow extraditions but snowballed into a movement calling for more democratic freedoms and police accountability.
James said Morey was thinking of himself when he made his comment.
“There are ramifications for the negative that can happen when not thinking about others, when you are only thinking about yourself,” he said.
James also has a lifetime endorsement deal worth tens of millions with Nike, which does big business in China. James has made about a dozen trips to China with Nike.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver stressed last week that he regrets Chinese NBA fans are upset but would not apologize for Morey’s tweet.
“I don’t come here, either as the commissioner of the NBA or as an American, to tell others how they should run their governments,” Silver said.
“We’re not apologizing for Daryl exercising his freedom of expression.”
As for having NBA telecasts pulled from Chinese television, Silver said, “It’s unfortunate, but if that’s the consequences of us adhering to our values, we still feel it’s critically important we adhere to those values.”