POSTED: April 18th 2009

Getting to grips with reality

Sound bites? The media evaluating the evaluators / lake images
Sound bites? The media evaluating the evaluators / lake images

KEIR RADNEDGE / Sports Features Communications

TOKYO: ‘Mixed reality’ is how the Japanese describe the clever little electronic gadget which allows the Olympic viewer to see the future.

Hold it up to your eyes, press the button and the vast empty, grey, car park on the fringe of Tokyo Bay is transformed into the stadium of the future complete with surrounding grass, trees and (environmentally-friendly) flags and signage.

Or, the possible future.

For this is the toy with which members of the IOC evaluation commission were allowed to play today as they set out on their day-long visit to Tokyo’s prospective 2016 sites.

The boast is that, in pursuit of “the most compact Games,” some 90 per cent of the venues will be within 8km distance.

Crowd troubles

How Tokyo, lacking the broad sweeping boulevards of, say, Beijing, will cope with the inevitable, consequent crowd crush has not been explained. Perhaps that also requires the engagement of a little ‘mixed reality’ – also known as blind faith.

Observing the site visit was a bizarre experience, a suspension of belief  – watching members of a five-star expense-account committee study facilities which do not exist.

This thought clearly did not worry the 200 young people who had been brought in to cheer a unison welcome to drown out, initially, around two dozen anti-Games protesters behind a roadside fence.

Once the commission party had alighted from their bus the welcomers moved on to the next stop, bequeathing a brief vocal victory to the protesters who even disagreed among themselves about how the monies should be allocated to social welfare projects, instead.

Not that this was a concern of the commission. Its mission was pre-defined to such a restrictive degree that the media was instructed, condescendingly: “You can see them arrive and make their inspection but not talk.” As if the members were exotic, rare animals under observation in a zoo who might be frightened, poor souls, by the odd cough or squeak.

Development sites

What they saw, in turn, were empty sites earmarked for potential Olympic development and some of the 23 venues which are already in existence, albeit in need of upgrading.

Only 11 more venues are needed but that “only” is deceptive since these include major facilities such as the 100,000-capacity main stadium, the swimming centre and the youth plaza arena which will host gymnastics, badminton, modern pentathlon and basketball.

Construction of the main stadium would take up just under one third of the $3.8bn overall construction budget. If Tokyo does not win the bid it is inconceivable that the stadium will go ahead. Unlike rivals Chicago, Madrid and Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo is the only candidate city which has to finance a full-scale, permanent stadium.

Here perhaps, in these days of comparative cost-awareness, lies one of the flaws in the Tokyo bid; protesters at the virtual gate of the non-existent stadium might argue that the absence of a legacy of social development is another; a third is the oft-quoted accident of timing that the 2016 vote comes just over a year after the last Asian Olympics, in Beijing.

The answer? Simple. Try using mixed reality.

Keywords · Tokyo 2016 · Olympic Games · IOC · evaluation commission

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