Photo/IllutrationConstruction continues on the new National Stadium that will serve as the main venue for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

A new government report on expenditures for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics has left many wondering how much the Games will eventually end up costing.

The report has only deepened doubts among the public about the way the costs of the Summer Olympics, to be hosted by the capital, are being managed.

The report, compiled by the Board of Audit and submitted to the Diet, says a total of 286 projects claimed to be related to the Olympics have been carried out in the past five years for a total cost of 801.1 billion yen ($7.13 billion), which has been paid from the central government budget.

The figure unveiled by the board has come as a surprise since the state budget for the event is 150 billion yen. The Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games last put the total cost of the event at 1.35 trillion yen.

The organizing committee and the Tokyo metropolitan government are each to shoulder about 600 billion yen in expenses, with the remaining 150 billion yen expected to be covered by the central government. This is the agreement the three organizations reached last year.

The cost picture is actually more complicated than it looks at first glance.

The 801.1 billion yen the board has come up with includes some 30 billion yen of state grants provided to the metropolitan government to finance the construction of new roads leading to the Olympic village.

The total also includes about 37 billion yen of spending to boost the accuracy of weather forecasts. This outlay has been listed by the infrastructure ministry as an Olympics-related expense as part of the costs of measures to deal with the summer heat.

The ways these two budget items have been handled are quite questionable.

As for the money to build the new roads, a more honest approach would have been to account for the spending in the state budget for the Olympics. Or it should at least have been put into a separate and independent budget category related to the event.

It would confuse many people to bill the costs of operating weather satellites as expenditures for the Olympics.

The 150-billion-yen state budget for the Olympics is a product of budgeting gimmicks to make the central government’s spending on the event look much less than it will actually be to boost public support for it.

As ministries and agencies have tried to capitalize on the Olympics to win more funds for their own projects and programs, the overall “Olympics-related” expenditures so far have come to 801.1 billion yen.

Behind these two figures are maneuverings by government policymakers and bureaucrats to promote their parochial budget interests.

The common objective of these two numbers is to conceal the real cost picture from the public eye.

In a totally natural move, the board has urged the secretariat in charge of promoting the Games set up within the Cabinet Secretariat to release a more accurate picture of the event’s cost by sorting by relevance all the listed projects and programs including those that should be carried out irrespective of the Olympics. The board demanded that the secretariat reveal details about all the budget items including the amounts requested.

To be fair, it is not necessarily easy to draw a clear line between Olympics-related expenses and expenditures that should not be categorized as such.

The International Olympics Committee has not shown any clear criteria for this purpose.

With regard to unclear cases, the best approach would be to provide detailed information about the programs and their value for the people to judge for themselves.

The public deserves to know exactly what policy measures have been taken for the Olympics at what cost and whether they have produced the expected results. Complete disclosure of related information is vital for scrutinizing and evaluating all public expenditures for the event.

In recent years, many cities have withdrawn their bids to host Olympics, either the Summer or Winter Games. Behind the trend are growing public concerns about the costs of hosting the mammoth sporting event.

Continued efforts should, of course, be made to curb the costs of the Tokyo Olympics.

It is also important to inject more transparency into the process of budgeting for related expenditures and ensure clear and accurate accounting for all expenses so that Tokyo will set a good example for future Olympics cost management.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Oct. 12