Christian Cieri – Illustrator

The 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo have sparked a great sense of patriotic pride in a country that has taken hit after hit in recent years.

Still recovering from the 2011 tsunami and dealing with worrying economic stagnation. Tokyo won its bid to hold the Summer Games a little over a year ago. Currently, Japan is what is known as a “matured” economy, never falling but never improving: in an economic limbo that has given it a rather jaded image which will be difficult to shake. The Tokyo 2020 games will mostly be funded by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, which has accumulated $4 billion in reserve funds.

This is a worryingly miniscule figure when stacked against the likes of Beijing, which spent $50 billion on reinventing the city for the 2008 games, and London, who spent $18 billion for 2012. This is not the most promising way to start.

Japan beat out Istanbul and Madrid in the final round of voting to earn their second opportunity to host the games. The last time Tokyo hosted the Summer Olympics was back in 1964, after the dust of World War II had settled. It was a fabulous occasion. The opening ceremony was seen as a turning point from which Japan ushered itself into a new era.

One of the most symbolic images taken from that day was of Yoshinori Sakai: dubbed the “Atomic Bomb Boy,” the 19-year-old student-athlete from Hiroshima carried the Olympic torch up the stadium steps to light the cauldron having been born just hours after the “Little Boy” bomb decimated the city. But a new millennium means new problems: with an aging population and massive scars from the tragic earthquake and ensuing tsunami, including ongoing radiation leaks at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station, can Japan host a reinvigorating Olympics 56 years after the previous ceremony?

Early estimates show that the country could benefit from the approximated 3 trillion Yen ($30 billion) and more than 150,000 jobs created.

“The outlook has not been so bright for the Japanese, and this will be something bright, something Japan will look forward to,” said Tsuyoshi Ueno, senior economist at NLI Research Institute in Tokyo, shortly after the International Olympic Committee President, Jacques Rogge, made the announcement from Buenos Aires.

When it comes to international events such as the Olympics and FIFA World Cup, it’s hard to gauge the balance of cost and benefit, but the Japanese are optimistic and looking forward to a challenging and exciting path ahead.

Conway is a member of 

the class of 2017. 

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