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Budgets, boxing and Bolt: the rocky road to Tokyo 2020

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Preparations on schedule: Giant Olympic rings are towed in Tokyo Bay last week © AFP/File / Kazuhiro NOGI

TOKYO, Japan, Mar 12From the high of winning the right to host the Games to the depths of a plagiarism scandal and a stadium debacle, the path to the 2020 Olympics has been far from smooth. But with six months to go Tokyo has overcome the nearly all the obstacles and is on schedule.

Here, AFP Sport chronicles the significant events on Tokyo’s rocky road to the Games.

– 2013: Tears of joy –

TV news presenters burst into tears and thousands of people erupt in screams of delight when the IOC awards the Games to Tokyo in September 2013.

IOC President Jacques Rogge announces “Tokyo” as the winner of the bid to host the 2020 Summer Olympic Games © POOL/AFP / FABRICE COFFRINI

With emotions running high, many Japanese turn their thoughts to the thousands of victims of a devastating earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 as the Olympics are seen as a golden opportunity to rebuild.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vows Tokyo will be a “safe pair of hands” with a reputation for efficiency and competence.

– 2015: Stadium scrapped –

An artist’s impression of the original design for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Stadium, which was scrapped after costs spiralled © TOKYO 2020 OLYMPIC BID COMMITTEE/AFP / TOKYO 2020 OLYMPIC BID COMMITTEE

Embarrassment for Abe as he is forced to tear up blueprints for the proposed national stadium when costs balloon out of control.

“I have decided we must go back to the drawing board,” a red-faced Abe says in July 2015 after public anger over the $2 billion price tag which would have made it the world’s most expensive stadium.

– 2015: Logo dropped –

Scandal follows in September 2015 as the logo for the Games is ditched after accusations of plagiarism.

Posters bearing the original logo of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games are removed from Tokyo City Hall after the emblem was scrapped in an embarrassing plagiarism scandal © JIJI PRESS/AFP / JIJI PRESS

Designer Olivier Debie says the design is stolen from his logo for a Belgian theatre and threatens court action before officials withdraw the emblem, saying it “no longer has public support”.

– 2018: Cute mascots –

After the logo disaster, there is relief at the smooth rollout of futuristic mascots for the Olympics and Paralympics, chosen by schoolchildren.

Olympic and Paralympic mascots Miraitowa (left) and Someity delight schoolchildren on a visit to a primary school in Tokyo © AFP / Behrouz MEHRI

Olympic mascot “Miraitowa” — combining the Japanese words for future and eternity — is a blue-checked, doe-eyed character with pointy ears and useful “special powers” that enable it “to move anywhere instantaneously”.

Its Paralympic counterpart “Someity” sports pink checks derived from Japan’s famous cherry blossoms and is “usually calm, however, it gets very powerful when needed”.

– 2018: Boxing blues –

One of the oldest Olympic sports, boxing, faces a Games axe as International Olympic Committee (IOC) orders preparations frozen in late 2018 after identifying “legal, reputational and financial risks” with governing body AIBA.

Under threat: Boxing faces the axe after its scandal-ridden governing body AIBA is stripped of the right run the sport at the Tokyo Games © AFP / Yuri CORTEZ

In an precedented move in Olympic history, the IOC later strips AIBA of its right to run the competition in Tokyo 2020 and says it will organise the boxing tournament itself.

– 2019: French charges –

Japanese Olympic Committee President Tsunekazu Takeda faces charges in France over payments made before Tokyo was awarded the Games © AFP/File / Martin BUREAU

French investigating magistrates in January 2019 charge the former head of Japan’s Olympic Committee, Tsunekazu Takeda, as they probe two payments totalling $2.3 million made before and after the Japanese capital was chosen.

Takeda says he was “never involved” in any decision-making process over the payment and stresses he had already protested his innocence during questioning in Paris the previous month.

Tokyo 2020 says it has “no means of knowing the bid committee’s activities”, which occurred before the organising committee was established. Takeda steps down as head of Japan’s Olympic Committee in June.

– 2019: Marathon move –

After warnings against holding the marathon in the middle of Tokyo’s sweltering summer, the IOC springs a surprise in October 2019 by shifting the flagship race to Sapporo, 800 kilometres to the north — and usually cooler in August.

Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike was not happy with the IOC’s coordination commission boss John Coates © POOL/AFP/File / Kimimasa MAYAMA

Tokyo 2020 organisers are livid, with Governor Yuriko Koike saying she has no choice but to accept the decision.

– 2019: Budget blowout –

Organisers unveil the final version of their budget in December, with the Games expected to cost $12.6 billion, although Tokyo 2020 and the IOC are still wrangling over the cost of moving the marathon.

There is been controversy over the national government’s part of the overall bill, which is supposed to be 150 billion yen but is actually nearly 10 times that, according to the Board of Audit of Japan. Organisers say auditors are counting expenses only tangentially related to the running of the Games.

– 2019: Russian ban –

Russia’s participation in the Games is thrown into question in December when anti-doping agency WADA ban the country’s athletes for four years from global events including the Olympics over manipulated doping data. Moscow says it will appeal against the ruling to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

– 2019: Bolt opens stadium –

People packed out the new national stadium when it opened © AFP / Laurence CHU

More than six months before the opening ceremony, a 68,000 sellout crowd pack into the new Olympic Stadium for the first time with the highlight seeing retired Jamaican sprint superstar Usain Bolt trot gently around the track in a hybrid relay race involving athletes and parathletes.

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