TOKYO (Reuters) – A year before hosting the 2020 Olympics, Tokyo is better prepared than any other city in the past to host the Games, Olympic chief Thomas Bach said on Wednesday.
International Olympic Committee President Bach came to the Japanese capital to attend several high-profile events marking one year until the opening ceremony in the almost-completed National Stadium. Only three Olympic venues in total remain to be finished.
Around 3.22 million tickets were sold during the first domestic sales phase last month, surprising organizers so much that their sales policy has had to be amended.
Over 200,000 people in Japan and abroad have also applied to be volunteers at the Games in a further indication of the excitement building in the country.
“I can really say that I have never seen any Olympic city being so ready with their preparations one year before the Games as Tokyo already is,” Bach told sports officials and journalists gathered for a presentation on Tokyo’s progress.
The celebrations included the unveiling of the Olympic medal design, the presentation of the torch relay “ambassadors”, a performance by traditional Japanese string instrument shamisen players and speeches, including by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
“The last six years have passed very quickly, and I am happy to hear that the preparations have been carried out as planned,” said Abe, recalling the award of the Games to Tokyo in Buenos Aires in 2013.
But it has not always been plain sailing. Tsunekazu Takeda resigned this year as president of the Japanese Olympic Committee following allegations of suspected corruption related to the bid, and in 2015 organizers had to scrap the original logo over accusations of plagiarism.
Budget figures released in December 2018 put total costs at $12.6 billion, well above their original estimate at under $7 billion.
Battle with rising costs may be offset by local sponsorship revenue which has passed $3 billion, more than any other Games.
Tokyo also had to ramp up its heat countermeasures, such as shaded areas, air-conditioned waiting areas and ice baths for athletes, as well as water sprays.
Although this summer has so far been mild and rainy, a record heat wave in July 2018 killed over a dozen people in Tokyo, with monthly average temperatures reaching more than 30 degrees for the first time since 1998.
(Reporting by Antoni Slodkowski; editing by Sudipto Ganguly)