Small demonstrations in Tokyo and Sapporo against the Olympic candidacy

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TOKYO — A small group of protesters gathered in central Tokyo and the northern city of Sapporo on Sunday to oppose Japan’s overtures to host the 2030 Winter Olympics.

About 50 people gathered in each locality holding ‘No Olympics’ banners and trying to get their point across to passing audiences.

Sapporo is considered one of the favorites to clinch the 2030 Games along with Salt Lake City and Vancouver. All three cities have hosted Winter Olympics before.

Last week, the Sapporo city legislature rejected a proposal to hold a citywide referendum on the issue. Cities that held public votes generally refused the proposal.

Sapporo officials say polls show 52% supporting the bid, making a referendum unnecessary.

“It’s going to be so expensive,” Sapporo resident Yuki Kubo said after driving through town. “People are struggling to make a living. Now is not the time to waste money on the Olympics.

Sapporo officials have estimated the cost at $2.6 billion, although Olympic bids consistently exceed estimates.

Sapporo hopes to use some facilities from the 1972 Olympics, as well as venues from the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics.

The official cost of the just-concluded Tokyo Olympics was $13.6 billion, double the original estimate. Furthermore, several government audits have shown that the actual cost could be much higher than the official figure. All but about $6 billion was public money.

“Tokyo has been saddled with a big debt that we have to pay off and so the Olympics are far from over,” said Misako Ichimura, protesting near Shinjuku Central Station in Tokyo.

There was lingering opposition to the Tokyo Games, which faded when the Olympics opened just under a year ago with few fans allowed to attend during the pandemic.

Sapporo’s bid is almost certain to go ahead with backing from Japan’s ruling LDP party and business interests. The IOC is also indebted to Japan, having staged the Tokyo Games despite additional costs and local organizers losing nearly $1 billion in possible ticket sales.

The International Olympic Committee is expected to name the 2030 venue at meetings in May 2023 in India’s western metropolis, Mumbai. It could also reward the 2034 Winter Games.

The IOC has lined up its next three Summer Games – Paris ’24, Los Angeles ’28 and Brisbane, Australia ’32. The next Winter Olympics will be held in 2026 in Milan-Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy.

Akira Hayama, a student, who stood in downtown Tokyo next to a large banner that read, ‘Stop it’, said it’s ‘amazing that there is talk of having the Games in Sapporo’ , did she say. “It seems everyone has forgotten.”

Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter https://twitter.com/yurikageyama

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