POSTED: October 19th 2016

NEIL WILSON: Is Tokyo playing politics with the Olympics?

IOC President Thomas Bach is in Tokyo this week with the Coordination Commission © Getty Images
IOC President Thomas Bach is in Tokyo this week with the Coordination Commission © Getty Images

THE NEIL WILSON COLUMN / An exclusive, authoritative series from Sports Features Communications

(SFC) So the Tokyo 2020 bidding committee lied to International Olympic Committee when it presented them with the Candidate File that was the foundation of the case that won it the right to host the Games.

 According to The Mainichi, Tokyo Metropolitan government documents "clearly indicate" that the cost of the rowing-canoe kayak course would be $472.m when it told the IOC that the cost would be only $94.3 million. "We gave them an unfounded figure," a senior Tokyo Metropolitan official is quoted as saying by the newspaper.

The ballooning figure is not because of inflation or rising construction costs. It is because the bid team quite deliberately chose to tell a whopper to the IOC knowing that the real figure would frighten IOC members.

That is fraud. Madrid and Istanbul, the other cities bidding in 2013, would have a perfect right now to demand a fresh election. IOC members would have a similar right to call their Executive Board to account for allowing the vote on a false premise.

They won't, and the IOC would not countenance it in any case.  It is not how the IOC works. Rocking its own boat is not the way the IOC pilots through troubled waters, of which there are presently enough to cause the perfect storm.

It will seek a more diplomatic solution in private to hold the organising committee to its bid. As its president Thomas Bach said after meeting the newly-elected Governor of the Tokyo Metropolitan authority this week: "I think it in the interests of Japan, Tokyo and the IOC that we do not change the rules of the competition after the election."

He could have been quoting from my previous column last month. The bidding process must be kept honest. Telling a deliberate lie is no less of a crime than bribing IOC members, as Salt Lake City did during its 2002 bid.

The problem for the IOC is that all Candidate Cities bid low knowing costs will be higher. Politicians see successful bids as an opportunity.  Expensive infrastructure work can be 'disappeared' into Olympic budgets. London did for 2012, Sochi famously did for 2014 when it created a completely new winter resort and left a false perception that the Winter Olympics cost $51 billion.

Now Tokyo is trying to make us believe that the cost of its Olympics has quadrupled to $30 billion.

The IOC presently has little power once a city is elected. It is soon too late to switch to another city because the potential replacements have been left with too little time to organise.

But, perhaps, there is a way. A Plan B could be written into each host's contract. A potential replacement city. One, say, that has the facilities existing because it has hosted a recent Games. As Innsbruck stood in for Denver for 1976.

The IOC would be demanding then that the original contract and prices are adhered to by host cities from a position of strength. It would hold the whip hand. A host city such as Tokyo could not then play politics with sport.

** NEIL WILSON reported his first Olympic Games in Munich in 1972. He has since covered another nine summer and nine winter Olympics for various newspapers, including The Independent and the Daily Mail with whom he has worked for the last 19 years as Athletics and Olympic correspondent. He was Britain's Sports Journalist of the Year in 1984 and is the author of seven books.

****The views expressed are the author's own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sports Features Communications.

Keywords · Olympics · Neil Wilson · Tokyo 2020

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