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The Subtle Tactics that Won Tokyo’s Bid for the Summer Olympics: Now, Japan Needs an “All-Japan” Strategy to Display its Strengths to the World

Munehiko Harada
Professor, Faculty of Sports Sciences, Waseda University

At dawn (Japan time) on September 8, 2013, Tokyo won its bid to host the 2020 Summer Olympics. This time around, Tokyo had been favorite to win. But it was only able to fulfill the bookmakers’ prediction and actually win by successfully overcoming the significant hurdle presented by the contaminated water issue. Tokyo also succeeded in breaking the jinx that, up to now, the city with the number one odds in the Olympic host selection process ends up losing. In the following, I offer an overview explaining why Tokyo succeeded in winning its bid to host the Olympics, as well as pointing out several future challenges in city planning that Tokyo faces with the coming of the 2020 Olympics.

In the first phase of the race to become Olympic host, it was Istanbul which took an early lead, with its sales point of becoming the “First Islamic Nation to host the Olympics” and of “Fusing and Uniting East and West.” It was also seen as the likely winner because this was its 5th bid for the Olympics. However, it lost momentum in the latter stages due to a succession of incidents that showed it in a negative light: the frequent occurrence of anti-government demonstrations in Turkey, the prolonged civil war in neighboring Syria, as well as the discovery of a large number cases of illegal doping.

Tokyo’s other rival city, Madrid, was certainly far from being favorite in the early stages because of negative factors such as its record levels of unemployment (27%) due to prolonged economic recession and the negative influence of demonstrations against the government’s austerity measures. However, as it entered the final stage of the race, Spain sought to achieve an explosive come-back by using imperial diplomacy which pushed Prince Felipe to the forefront of its campaign, succeeding in having fellow Spanish-speaking Buenos Aires unite in support and taking over the lead at one point, raising concerns that the final stages might turn into a head-to-head competition between Madrid and Tokyo.

Just as this race to become Olympic host had been described as a competition without any clear favorite, it turned into a confused scramble from which it would not have been strange to see any one of the competing cities emerge as victor. One of the reasons why Tokyo won was its tactics in the 2nd round. Last time, in its unsuccessful bid to host the 2016 Olympics, although it managed to gain 22 votes in the first round of voting, in the 2nd round, it lost 2 of those votes and ended up being eliminated from the competition with 20 votes. Tokyo realized that it could not win unless it gained more votes in the 2nd round than in the 1st round this time. Therefore, this time around, Tokyo used a two-level strategy: it asked even countries that it could not expect to vote for it in the 1st round to promise to vote for Tokyo in the 2nd round if their first choice city had been eliminated. As a result, although Istanbul managed to gain 10 more votes in the 2nd round (at 36 votes) than it had in the 1st round (at 26 votes), Tokyo succeeded in increasing its 42 votes from the 1st round by 18 votes, to gain 60 votes in the 2nd round.

Since the Second World War, the only mature major cities to have hosted the Summer Olympic Games are London (1948 & 2012) and Tokyo (1964 & 2020), and Tokyo is the first in Asia. This makes it necessary to create an unprecedented, original “Tokyo model” which utilizes the legacy of the 1964 Olympics in the city planning for hosting the 2020 Olympics. Since 85% of the facilities for the 2020 Olympics will be located within a radius of 8km, there is no plan to conduct the sort of major redevelopment planning like that which was seen in East London for the 2012 London Olympics. However, one possible direction is to attempt a social experiment in completely universal design and barrier-free city planning, able to respond to the needs of an aging society, while the world looks on. In a similar context, another idea would be to generate a Tokyo model of projects like those proposed by Paris in the city’s 2009 bid to host the Olympics, aiming for a future city with “Vélib” (a portmanteau of “vélo” and “libre” meaning “free bicycles”), a public bicycle-sharing system, which was introduced in 2009, and “autolib” (“free cars”), an electric car-share program, which was introduced in 2011.

Under the host agreement made between the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC), Tokyo will establish the Tokyo Organizing Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games (TOCOG), and with oversight by the IOC Executive Board, will take the first steps in beginning preparations for hosting the Olympic Games. All the more because the preparations for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games are behind schedule, Tokyo needs to display the strengths of Japan to the world by firmly realizing its Olympic plans and preparations, in accordance with the promises of safety and reliability it has made to the IOC.

The TOCOG will be responsible for 9 years of work for the preparations for (2013 to 2020) and the management after (2020 to 2022) the Olympic Games, but the concrete work related to city planning will be handed over to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the relevant government agencies. We can expect to see reforms to the system implemented, such as the establishment of a Sports Agency and the increase in sports-related budgets, development of Olympic-related facilities such as new stadiums, an athletes’ village and a media village, as well as city-marketing efforts aimed at attracting inbound sports tourism. In particular, regarding the latter, sports tourism, it will be important to create mechanisms to draw people and influence them with the appeal of sport.

There are unlimited ideas for the future, such as hosting international sporting events relating to events in the Tokyo Olympics, sports training camps for international athletes or attracting international conferences. Moreover, not only promoting tourism to the Olympic hosting city of Tokyo, it will also be important to conduct an “All-Japan” strategy to use Tokyo as a gateway to stimulate tourism to the rest of Japan as well.

Munehiko Harada
Professor, Faculty of Sports Sciences, Waseda University

[Career Summary]
1954: Born in Osaka, Japan
1977: Graduated from the Faculty of Education, Kyoto University of Education
1979: Completed Master's Program in Health and Physical Education, University of Tsukuba
1984: Completed Doctorate at College of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, Pennsylvania State University
1987: Served as assistant at National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Kanoya
1988: Served as lecturer at Osaka University of Health and Sport Sciences
1995: Served as Fulbright Senior Research Fellow (Texas A & M University)
1995: Served as professor at Osaka University of Health and Sport Sciences Graduate School
2005 to present: Has served as professor on the Faculty of Sports Sciences, Waseda University

[Current Social Activities]
Japanese Association for Sport Management (JASM) Chairperson
Japan Sports Tourism Alliance (JSTA) Chairperson
Saitama Sports Commissions (SSC) Vice Chairperson
Nadeshiko League Reform Task Force Committee Chairperson
Japan Society of Sports Industry Director
Japanese Society of Management for Physical Education and Sports Director
Fitness Industry Association of Japan Director
Japan Sports Health Industries Federation Director
Shinjuku Foundation for Creation of Future Director
bj league Management Advisory Committee Advisor
Japan Top League Alliance Advisor
Japan Sports Council, Japan Institute of Sports Sciences, Performance Evaluation Committee Member
Japan Sports Association, General Planning Committee, Planning Committee Member
JKA Public Welfare Services Review Committee Member
Tokyo Metropolitan Sports Promotion Council Member
Gakko Hojin Namisho Gakuen, Future Vision Committee Member

[Major Publications]
Physical Fitness, (translation), Baseball Magazine Sha Co., Ltd.
Marketing Government and Social Services, (translation), Yuji Zozo
Sports Industry Theory [Supootsu Sangyo Ron]: Edition 5, Kyorin Shoin
Sports and Leisure Service Theory [Supootsu, Rejaa Saabisu Ron], Kenpakusha
Sports Management Studies [Supootsu Keiei Gaku], Taishukan
Sports Event Economics [Supootsu Ibento no Keizai Gaku] , Heibonsha Limited (shinsho-size edition 145)
Social Economics of Lifelong Sports [Shougai Supootsu no Shakai-Keizai Gaku], Kyorin Shoin
Illustrated Sports Management [Zukai Supootsu Manejimento], Taishukan
On the Ball: What You Can Learn About Business From America's Sports Leaders (translation), Taishukan
Sport Marketing [Supootsu Maaketeingu]: Sports Business Series I, Taishukan
Sports Management [Supootsu Manejimento]: Sports Business Series III, Taishukan
Sports and Health Tourism [Supootsu Herusu Tsuurizumu]: Sports Business Series IV, Taishukan
Sports Facility Management [Supootsu Fashiritei Manejimento]: Sports Business Series V, Taishukan
The New YMCA Strategy[Shin YMCA Senryaku], YMCA Japan