Japan anticipates Olympic boost, but Fukushima shadows linger

A huge banner reading "Celebration 2020 Olympics" is set up at Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in Tokyo. Credit: Reuters
A huge banner reading “Celebration 2020 Olympics” hangs at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building.
Credit: Reuters

Japan savored its victory on Monday in the race to host the 2020 Olympic Games, anticipating an economic boost to spur its revival from two decades of stagnation and help it recover from the devastating 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

The decisive win over rivals Madrid and Istanbul is also likely to strengthen the fortunes of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who put his reputation on the line in a bold gamble that victory would boost national confidence, a key ingredient in the success so far of his aggressive pro-growth policies.

The economic impact of the win was estimated by the Tokyo bid committee at more than 3 trillion yen ($30 billion) with the creation of 150,000 jobs. If the Nikkei stock index follows the examples of the London and Athens bourses after those cities won the games, it could see a one- to three-month rally.

But Tokyo, which in 1964 became the first city in Asia to host the Olympic games, won the right to host the world’s biggest sporting extravaganza despite concerns over the leaking Fukushima nuclear plant 140 miles from the Japanese capital.

The plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco), has been forced to reverse denials and admit that hundreds of tons of radioactive water are pouring into the Pacific Ocean each day. Radiation levels have spiked.

Abe said in Buenos Aires, where Tokyo’s victory was announced by the International Olympic Committee, that the plant is “under control.” But he added that Tokyo will have to work to win the world’s trust in the wake of the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl 25 years earlier.

“I would like to state clearly that there has not been, is not now and will not be any health problems whatsoever,” Abe told a news conference. “Furthermore, the government has already decided a program to make sure there is absolutely no problem, and we have already started.”

Despite such assurances, South Korea on Friday extended a ban on Japanese fishery imports to a larger area around the crippled Fukushima plant due to concerns over the radiation. China has banned imports of dairy, vegetable and seafood products from at least five Japanese prefectures since the 2011 disaster.

Tokyo pledged last week to spend nearly half a billion dollars on cleaning up the plant, with critics saying the announcement was aimed at the Olympic vote.

Some of the estimated 2,000 people gathered at a Tokyo park to wait for the Olympics announcement, which came in around dawn on Sunday, said the games might bring enough international attention that the nuclear problem will be properly dealt with.

“Tepco has not been clear about a number of things, and maybe now there will be enough foreign pressure to get this thoroughly taken care of,” said Yumiko Okada, 51, who assists her husband, a comic illustrator, with his business.

“Now the eyes of the world will be watching.”

Confidence, stocks likely to climb

To be sure, rivals to host the games Madrid and Istanbul were also wrestling with their own demons; the Spanish capital in the form of recession and the Turkish city with the spectre of a military strike on neighbouring Syria and internal unrest.

Many in the Tokyo park were hopeful that Japan’s win would boost confidence overall, show that the country is back on the world stage after the economic dark times known as the “two lost decades,” during which China overtook it to become the world’s largest economy after the United States.

“It is a very good chance for Japan to have a rebirth for further economic development – and at the same time, Japan these days has lost the samurai spirit,” said Kazuo Otsuki, 78, who said he was glad to have a third chance to see the Olympics in Tokyo. The 1940 Olympics had been set for Japan but were canceled due to World War Two.

“Japanese people are wondering what to do and they are still astray these days.”

Since coming to power in December, Abe has promoted aggressive monetary and fiscal policies that have raised some confidence Japan can emerge from its years of stagnation.

Now the Olympics success could boost confidence further and buying of stocks, with many foreseeing increased consumption across a broad swathe of the economy.

The Nikkei rallied for a month after Japan’s Nagano won the right to the 1998 Winter Games and one analyst predicted it could rise by more than 10 percent in the short term.

A Tokyo Olympics stock index of 79 companies that could benefit from the Games, compiled by Okasan Securities, has already risen about a half this year, gaining more than the broader market’s increase of about a third.

Realtors, anticipating development of Tokyo’s downtown waterfront area – where the Olympic Village will be located – are especially hopeful.

“We in the property sector are expecting this to become a chance for Tokyo to take its development as an international city to a level higher, in the face of the increasingly severe competition from other Asian cities,” said Mitsubishi Estate Co Ltd, in a statement lauding the decision.

An economic lift might also give Abe the final impetus he needs to make a decision on a planned increase in the national sales tax, Japan’s biggest attempt in years to rein in its runaway public debt. The decision is expected early next month after Abe has weighed up whether the economy is strong enough to absorb the tax hike.

“Think of the overall economic boost they predict, the 3 trillion yen and all those jobs,” said Masaharu Ota, a 63-year-old advertising executive. “That will give people motivation even if the sales tax goes up in April.”



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Federal mediator joins Met Opera labor talks as…

Unions representing the orchestra and chorus of the Met Opera agreed to have a federal mediator join labor talks on Thursday as a threatened lockout loomed.

Local

Winning $7 million New York lottery ticket sold…

The only $7 million winning New York Lottery ticket for Monday's Cash4Life drawing was sold at a Queens 7-Eleven, officials said on Tuesday.

Local

Brooklyn man charged in roommate's stabbing death

A Brooklyn man accused of violently stabbing his roommate to death on Monday is in police custody and faces murder charges.

International

Dinosaurs could have survived asteroid strike

It turns out there is a good and a bad time for the planet to be hit by a meteor, and dinosaurs were just unlucky.…

Movies

Review: 'Guardians of the Galaxy' is a refreshingly…

Marvel is sitting so high on a cash mountain that it's now thrown $170 million at the relatively obscure and very silly title "Guardians of the Galaxy."

Movies

Review: 'Get on Up' is a war between…

James Brown finally gets his own boring biopic with "Get on Up," but the Godfather of Soul puts up a good fight against the usual cliches.

Movies

Review: 'Child of God' finds director James Franco…

James Franco's 11th directed feature is a noble but sloppy adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's "Child of God," about a feral mountain man (Scott Haze).

Movies

Review: Alex Gibney's Fela Kuti doc 'Finding Fela'…

Prolific documentarian Alex Gibney takes on Afrobeat god Fela Kuti in "Finding Fela," but fails to capture his unique essence.

MLB

Yankees land Stephen Drew, Martin Prado at trade…

Yankees land Stephen Drew, Martin Prado at trade deadline

College

Playing the Field: Valentine's Day coupling edition

  It’s Valentine’s Day, a day created by Hallmark to make couples spend loads and loads of money on candy, flowers and gourmet dinners. Or…

MLB

Angelo Cataldi: Ryan Howard deserves better from Phillies

Just last week, Ryan Howard endured the embarrassment of a benching that was inevitable, and yet still shocking.

NFL

Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.

Career

What do you wear to a career fair?…

Getting that gig starts with presenting the most polished and memorable version of yourself, so refer to our expert fashion advice.

Style

Editors pick: Margiela's finger armor ring

These cool rings from Maison Martin Margiela are designed to overlap over the finger, covering each joint like armor.

Style

Givenchy champions diversity

Riccardo Tisci's uses a variety of ethnically diverse ladies for his spring campaign including Erykah Badu.

Wellbeing

Don't settle for the hotel fitness center with…

Travelers who want to skip the hotel fitness center in favor of local gyms that may offer better equipment, classes and amenities can turn to…