Three years to go: How far the 2020 Tokyo Games can pursue sustainability?

2017 / 6 / 15 | Author: EcoNetworks

Photo by t-mizo

A long way off? Just around the corner? In either case, the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games will kick off in three years.

Well, Tokyo is off to a good start. They finally decided who will shoulder the burden of 1.4 trillion yen (USD12.6 billion), the cost to host the Games, nearly double their original bid (730 billion yen).

Financial sustainability is a big concern, especially when we think of Rio. But environmental and social sustainability are other issues to keep in mind.

This January, Tokyo Organizing Committee for Olympics and Paralympics Games (TOCOG) released the Sustainability Plan, followed by the Sustainable Sourcing Code in March. Both are the initial version and will be updated in coming years.

We find some remarkable points, such as the sustainable procurement standard ISO 20400 to be applied to the Olympic Games for the first time. However, many topics need further discussion to embed sustainability in the Games. Below are some key issues to watch: a comparison chart of London – Rio – Tokyo.

One important topic is how to establish an independent monitoring and audit system. In London, an organization independent from the organizing committee was responsible for advising on the sustainability of the Games. The budget for auditing is also funded by independent parties: the contracting institution of the Olympic Impact Studies, which has assessed the impact of the Games for 12 years, and another source. For Tokyo at this point, discussion and working groups consist of experts giving suggestions to the organizing committee – but they are all under the arm of TOCOG. While NGOs are engaged in dialogue with the sustainability department of TOCOG, these discussions are not officially integrated.

Renewable energy and decarbonization are other key issues, Especially in a world after the Paris Agreement (although Trump declared an exit, the international society will not change direction), and as a country which experienced the Fukushima nuclear disasters. Tokyo is expected to show the world a model hydrogen society, but NGOs ask to go further, by raising the flag of a 100% renewable, carbon-free event.

We sushi and sashimi lovers also need to keep our eyes on sustainable seafood. Sourcing codes for fish are published, but the bar seems not high enough compared to past events. These codes included national certification labels, which are easier to obtain than international certifications like MSC and ASC.

And of course, that’s not all. Promote diversity and inclusion. Eliminate hate speech and protect human rights. Strive for Games free of cigarette smoke. If Tokyo really wants to show “the power to change our world and our future,” as cited on their website, considering the time left, three years is not enough. They need to boost their efforts.

But one thing I feel I must make clear here is, the Tokyo Games are not for the national government. Amend the constitution as they want, pass the conspiracy bill and make a surveillance society to realize a “safe” event, say nuclear disasters are under control…The 2020 Games must not become a patriotic smoke bomb behind which the government can hide as it implements changes to the detriment of society.

Takeshi Nozawa