Tokyo Rounds Up The Homeless In Advance Of Olympics

Gotta put a pretty face on this multi-billion dollar scam, I guess

AFP/Getty Images
Mar 28, 2017 at 11:06 AM ET

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics have been beset with problems and protests practically from the start. The latest: Amidst a downtown construction boom that coincides with the run-up to the Games, authorities began clearing a park where homeless people have resided for a decade.

Japan barely even has a homeless problem, with an estimated 6,000 in the whole country, yet the forcible ejection of three was captured on camera and spawned a gathering of protesters as official escorts walked them out of Miyashita Park, according to a Reuters report.

This is but the latest black eye in a series of snafus related to the city’s hosting of the Summer Games. Tokyo originally bid for the 2016 edition, but meager domestic support—only 56 percent of residents—hindered that pursuit. Within months of being awarded the 2020 Games, Tokyo already had protesters marching against plans for a colossal, futuristic Olympic Stadium with a price tag that would have been the heftiest in history. That stadium would soon be scaled down in a revision and then ultimately scrapped for a cheaper option altogether.

Then there was the suspicious $2 million payment to a secret bank account that French officials have confirmed they are investigating. A Japanese book called The Anti-Olympic Manifesto is said to have sold out of its first printing. The budget for the ambitious technological marvels of these “Full-Robot” Games remains a worry; despite a 25-percent reduction in planned costs, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike has said she remains concerned that there is no final budget.

Koike spoke for all public officials when telling the Agence France-Presse, “It’s just not sustainable to spend vast sums of money on the Olympics. Tokyo will be a test case for the IOC.”

Her pressure on the previously male-membership-only Kasumigaseki Country Club—the Olympic golf venue—did help realize some positive change, as the club eventually acceded to demands that it allow women into the club. But many Tokyo businesses that depend on trade shows at the exhibition center are now protesting plans to turn the space into the media hub for the Games, costing them exposure and sales that they worry will bankrupt them.

The lesson, as always, is that there’s always something going wrong—and usually somethings, plural—when taking on the thankless and largely burdensome task of hosting the Olympics.