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Governor Masuzoe’s Olympic Offensive

SNA (Tokyo) — The 2020 Tokyo Olympics are supposed to be a partnership between the national government and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, and Governor Yoichi Masuzoe is clearly determined that his voice will be heard.

When Prime Minister Shinzo Abe suddenly reversed course on July 17 and decided to take the national stadium construction plans “back to zero,” he clearly didn’t make much of an effort to communicate or coordinate with the Tokyo governor. We know this to be true because Governor Masuzoe made sure that the Japanese public was well informed that he had nothing to do with it. Masuzoe also made it crystal clear that he has been upset about the national stadium construction process for some time.

As the governor himself explained on his blog, “If we are to restart the process from scratch, we must review the causes of this failure, and apportion blame to the relevant parties.”

Masuzoe Mug

Tokyo Governor Yoichi Masuzoe

Governor Masuzoe’s white hot anger was even more apparent in a Twitter message in which he declared: “Who is responsible for creating this situation?… Everyone just claims that they themselves are not the bad ones. It’s the same system of irresponsibility like that which once characterized the Japanese Imperial Army.”

The Tokyo governor is not shy about saying where he believes the deepest responsibility for the fiasco lay: “The Ministry of Education is both incompetent and irresponsible, and this is the biggest cause of the failure… Since many Japan Sport Council employees are officials who have temporarily transferred over from the Ministry of Education, they cannot oppose it. If we allow these two organizations to do this work again, they will fail once again.”

Masuzoe went on to offer some advice in a highly caustic tone: “We should halt the operations of the Council of Experts, the advisory body to the Japan Sport Council. There are almost no real ‘experts’ in construction on it, and it is just a body to which the heads of organizing committees, the metropolitan government, the Japanese Olympic Committee, and the Japanese Paralympic Committee are assigned to in a random fashion. It is a body that simply ratifies the Japan Sport Council’s decisions, but has no say in them. It is just a cloak of invisibility for the Japan Sport Council—the kind of organization beloved by bureaucrats, and entirely behind the times.”

Remarkably, Tokyo Governor Masuzoe didn’t stop at simply haranguing the bureaucrats for incompetence, but he also suggested that the decision-making is fundamentally corrupt: “The second cause of failure is the fact that some politicians and other people who were involved in the contracts had discussions with the major construction companies within secret environments, in which external checks were absent. There may have been secret concessions behind closed doors.”

The governor revealed that his frustration toward the architects and construction contractors had been gathering force for some time: “Despite my requests, they never spoke on important matters throughout the process. It may be because they were involved in clandestine dealings—why do they not speak?”

The policy answer offered by Tokyo Governor Yoichi Masuzoe is that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his team must become directly involved in preparations for the 2020 Olympics to ensure that the key decisions are being made for the right reasons, and not according to the incompetent judgments of relatively junior bureaucrats or, even worse, deliberate corruption.

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