Photo/IllutrationSouth Africa's members bow to the spectators after they defeated England in the final of the Rugby World Cup on Nov. 2 at International Stadium Yokohama. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Olympic organizers’ decision to move the 2020 Tokyo Olympic marathons and race walking events from the Japanese capital to Sapporo has raised concerns about the planning and management of the Summer Games.

Particularly troubling is the disarray among the Tokyo Games organizing committee and the central and Tokyo metropolitan governments that came to the fore afresh in the process leading to the decision.

The clock is ticking. The parties involved need to act swiftly to build mutual trust so that they can identify and tackle effectively all challenges they will face in the run-up to and during the Summer Olympics.

First of all, the parties involved should try to learn and share relevant lessons from the experiences of the Rugby World Cup in Japan.

World Rugby’s showpiece event, which unfolded at 12 venues across the nation over a 44-day period, attracted more than 1.7 million spectators including more than 400,000 visitors from abroad.

In contrast, the Olympics will last only 17 days and almost all the events will be held in Tokyo and the surrounding areas.

But the metropolitan area is expected to be visited by nearly 10 million people from other parts of Japan and abroad during that period. That will make the management of the Olympics a far more daunting mission.

One of the biggest challenges for Olympic organizers will be to ensure smooth and trouble-free transportation of people.

There was no serious confusion in this respect during the Rugby World Cup partly because the venues were dispersed and the game schedule was stretched out.

Even so, there was some considerable congestion and jammed flows of people around certain stadiums. One complicating factor for Tokyo Olympic organizers will be the sweltering summer heat.

Traffic and transportation challenges will not be limited to areas around venues. In Olympic test events held this summer, serious traffic jams occurred on streets in various parts of the capital because of traffic restrictions on toll highways.

The challenge will be to ensure smooth operations of events while minimizing unwanted effects on people’s daily lives. How well this challenge is met will go a long way toward determining the success or failure of the Summer Games.

In the early stages of the Rugby World Cup, there were problems concerning ticket sales. As many as 200 tickets for one match were found to be counterfeits or those that had not been sold through an official outlet.

Reselling tickets was allowed only through the official resale website. But there were complaints about delays in payments.

The Tokyo Olympics will adopt a similar ticket sales system. Under the new law to ban the unauthorized resale of tickets that came into force in June, buying tickets in an unauthorized way is a punishable crime.

To prevent any legal and other problems concerning ticket sales, the organizers need to stage an effective public awareness campaign and monitor unofficial resale sites operated outside Japan.

The biggest issue for the management of the Rugby World Cup was the unprecedented cancellations of three group-stage matches due to a typhoon.

Fortunately, partly because there were clear written rules concerning such situations and partly because the canceled fixtures were not important for the group stage results that determined the teams going to the quarterfinals, what happened did not create serious problems for the tournament.

But the cancellations were nevertheless a huge disappointment for both players and fans.

There is no guarantee that the Tokyo Olympics will not face a similar situation.

How should such an emergency be dealt with? Through changes in the event schedule or simple cancellations? And how should such a decision be made and what kind of steps should be taken to ensure that the decision will be made widely known in time?

Organizers need to sort out these questions by examining and assessing various options while putting the highest priority on safety.

It is crucial for organizers to take into account all the risks and possibilities and develop multiple plans to deal with potential problems based on various assumptions.

Organizers’ efforts to tackle challenges posed by the mammoth international sports event should be based on a solid understanding of how careful preparations supported by smooth and effective communications will hold the key to success.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Nov. 12