Protesters march through Tokyo, Sapporo opposing 2030 Winter Olympic bid

A small group of protesters gathered Sunday in central Tokyo and in the northern city of Sapporo to oppose Japan's overtures to hold the 2030 Winter Olympics.

Proposal likely with backing of Japan's ruling LDP party, commercial interests

Protesters in the Shinjuku district of Tokyo hold a banner on Sunday which reads "The IOC is a bunch of thieves. Spend on welfare, not the Games." A group of about 50 were demanding Japan drop its bid for the 2030 Winter Games in Sapporo. (Yuri Kageyama/Associated Press)

A small group of protesters gathered Sunday in central Tokyo and in the northern city of Sapporo to oppose Japan's overtures to hold the 2030 Winter Olympics.

About 50 people gathered in each locale holding "No Olympics" banners and trying to make their case to a passing public.

Sapporo is considered among the favourites to land the 2030 Games along with Salt Lake City and Vancouver. All three cities have held previous Winter Olympics.

Last week, Sapporo's city legislature rejected a proposal to hold a city-wide referendum on the issue. Cities that have held public votes have usually turned down the proposal.

Sapporo officials say polling shows 52 per cent support the bid, making a referendum unnecessary.

"It is going to cost so much," said Yuki Kubo, a Sapporo resident, after marching through the city. "People are having a hard time making a living. This is no time to be wasting money on the Olympics."

Sapporo officials have estimated the cost at $2.6 billion US, though Olympic bids consistently overrun estimates.

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Sapporo hopes to use some facilities from the 1972 Olympics and utilize venues from the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics.

The official cost of the just-completed Tokyo Olympics was $13.6 billion, twice the original estimate. In addition, several government audits showed the cost might be well over the official number. All but about $6 billion was public money.

"Tokyo has been saddled with a big debt we have to pay and so the Olympics are far from over," said protester Misako Ichimura speaking near Tokyo's central Shinjuku station.

There was persistent 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.

The Sapporo bid is almost sure to go forward with the backing of Japan's ruling LDP party and commercial interests. The IOC also owes Japan some favors, having staged the Tokyo Games despite added costs and the loss to local organizers of almost $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 of Mumbai. It could also award 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 are in 2026 in Milan-Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy.

Akira Hayama, a student, who was standing in downtown Tokyo next to a big banner that said, "Just stop it," said it's "unbelievable there is talk of having the Games in Sapporo," she said. "It seems everyone has forgotten."

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