2020 Olympics may spell disaster for Tokyo's commerce and industry


Shukan Kinyobi (April 20) is no big fan of the Tokyo Olympics. In its current issue, it devotes no fewer than 14 pages to blasting Tokyo's hosting of the Summer Olympics and Paralympics in 2020 and the enduring damage it will do to the city and the economy.

For instance, writes Tadashi Fujita, the organizers are so bent on milking the Games for all the international prestige they are worth, they are disregarding the devastating impact on small- and medium-sized companies and organizers of the trade shows that will be cancelled to accommodate the Olympics -- a veritable revival of messhi hoko (a catch phrase used during the war to exhort citizens to engage in "selfless devotion").

This, Fujita points out, is not a case of small potatoes. Current estimates are for 78,000 companies to incur losses of 2 trillion yen. This is because the Tokyo Big Site international exhibition complex in Koto Ward is in the process of being converted to the media center for the games, which means its East exhibition hall, which incorporates some 70% of the total display area, won't be used for its regular purpose of trade shows for a period of 20 months from April 2019 onwards.

"And the remaining part of the exhibition areas will be completely closed between May and September 2020," according to an official announcement by the Japan Exhibition Association.

Along with the famous Tokyo Motor Show, which attracted 770,000 visitors last year, exhibits for robotics, electric power, electronics, jewelry, foodstuffs, comic books and job recruitment -- held on a constant basis throughout the year -- will not be held. 

"Some people have been complaining to me that their not being able to attend trade shows will force them into bankruptcy," Takaki Shimo, who heads a protest group advocating for protection of industrial firms, tells the magazine. His group has already marched on city hall three times to protest the short shrift local business is being accorded.

"Needless to say, the cancelling of the trade shows will not only affect the bottom lines of exhibitors, but also companies that construct the displays, security firms, custodial workers and so on," Shimo adds. "I'm especially concerned that when the exhibits are halted, the first to lose their jobs will be long-time veteran workers who might be forced into premature retirement."

A similar problem surfaced on a lesser scale after the earthquake in March 2011, when Tokyo Big Site was put to use for over one month to temporarily house evacuees from devastated areas.

"During that time, many people involved with the exhibition site lost their income, and they had a rough time of it," Shimo pointed out.

To add insult to injury, from May through September 2020, Makuhari Messe in Chiba and Saitama Super Arena in Saitama will also be put to use for sports-related events, effectively blocking off the three largest exhibition facilities in the Kanto area.

"We're being forsaken in the name of Olympic glory!" was how one small-time subcontractor puts it.

Masato Hori, director of the Japan Exhibition Association, was quoted as saying, "If there were a way for us to coexist with the Olympics, it would create unprecedented business opportunities for Japan. However, because of the prolonged closure of Tokyo Big Site to exhibitions, business negotiations may be cut short; sales turnover will contract; and the venues may shift outside the country to Shanghai or other Asian cities. (Even as Japan's largest, the floor area of Tokyo Big Site is ranked only 68th worldwide.)

Hori's association is hoping that last-ditch efforts to put pressure on influential LDP Diet members may work to stave off disaster.

© Japan Today

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That's rather an alarmist and reactionary headline and article. Businesses will make allowances for the disruption caused by the Olympics and many will take advantage of the large international audience flooding into the country. It's certainly not the end of the world.

-10 ( +1 / -11 )

Instead of complaining, why don't they put their heads together and figure out how to make money from the Olympics. It may mean getting out of your comfort zone, but give it a try.

-7 ( +2 / -9 )

It's just a corporate love-in and the organizers don't even attempt to use local, independent businesses. In some cases they actually make it near impossible for them to trade as they're not part of the recognized branding. It's basically a fix.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Tourism goes down in the host city during the Olympics or other big events. You get people coming for the Games, but ordinary tourists are put off.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

I guess they just figured out the Olympics are coming.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I have friends that works at construction companies that build stages for exhibitions. They spend a lot of time on projects held at the sites mentioned on this article. I never thought of it before but now I can imagine how some companies may shut down if Big Site is unavailable for 20 months and other sites are down for months at a time. Their whole business is built around exhibitions so if those exhibitions leave the country, there goes their business.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Interesting perspective, never considered how that industry would be affected by this.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Without a pretext, like the Olympics or a World Exposition, infrastructure projects in Japan move at a glacial pace, if at all. Sometimes an entire section of road is delayed for a decade or longer because one stubborn holdout won't agree to sell a tiny patch of property. A 3km section of road connecting two rail lines in my Tokyo neighborhood took about 30 years to complete. So Japan has an ulterior motive for hosting big events, and of course most of the financial rewards are going to fall into the laps of major contractors who have links to politicians with the most influence --- like former prime minister Mori. The 2020 Olympics should really give out gold, silver and bronze medals to the organizations that exploit this horrendously corrupt system in order to realize the fattest profits.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

LudditeToday 10:49 am JST

Tourism goes down in the host city during the Olympics or other big events. You get people coming for the Games, but ordinary tourists are put off.

Absolutely right, that is exactly what happened to Weymouth, the venue for the sailing events in the 2012 Olympics. Normaly a toutist town, the hoteliers nearly went out of business as regular customers cancelled but far fewer Olympic visitors stayed in the town as many traveled down for the day. Also the impact on trade was felt across most of the summer not just the period of the games.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

This is interesting article and a topic that deserves more attention. Big Site is out of operation for twenty months!?

During the Football World Cup in 2002, tourism to Japan went down, because the number of Koreans, the co-host, staying at home outnumbered the few fans who came. Only English, Irish, and Mexican fans came in any numbers. The other countries brought only a few thousand each.

A lot of the small high-tech businesses affected by this employ people in better and more stable jobs than the brief Olympics will. I say it every time, but tourism has just about the lowest salaries of any sector in the economy. It is certainly not something that should be promoted at the expense of anything else.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Osaka and other cities can help but it's going to have to be spread around. It's not like they have a huge under utilization. They'll need to move and setup shop outside of Tokyo if they want to keep working at all leading up to the Olympics and also afterwards, so say a 3-5 year business plan?

The Olympics will smother and subtract from Tokyo. It's not 1964 anymore. Holding a large oversized event was never worth the cost, and they will learn that lesson first hand in due course

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I have to agree with the people here who say tourism will suffer when the Olympics come to Tokyo. The reasons stated need no further comment, except that my last (annual, 6-8 week) visit to Japan for the next few years will be late summer of this year.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Trevor, what about in 2020?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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