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Tokyo Olympic budget expected to hit $25 billion

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TOKYO (AP) — The price tag keeps soaring for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics despite local organizers and the International Olympic Committee saying that spending is being cut.

A report just released by the national government’s Board of Audit shows Japan is likely to spend $25 billion to prepare the Games, and the final number could go even higher.

This is nearly a four-fold increase over Tokyo’s winning bid in 2013, which the report said projected costs of 829 billion yen, or $7.3 billion at the current exchange rate of 113 yen to the dollar.

Tracking Tokyo costs is getting more difficult as work speeds up, deadlines near, and disputes arise about what are — and what are not — Olympic expenses. Complicated accounting also makes it difficult to figure out who pays for what, and who profits.

“It’s the most amazing thing that the Olympic games are the only type of megaproject to always exceed their budget,” Bent Flyvberg, an authority on Olympic budgeting, said in explaining his research: “The Oxford Olympics Study 2016.”

Flyvberg said the study failed to “find even one” Olympics that came in on or below budget.

Tokyo is a case study.

In December, the Tokyo organizing committee said the Olympic budget was 1.35 trillion yen, or about $12 billion.

This consisted of equal contributions of 600 billion yen ($5.3 billion) from the organizing committee and the Tokyo metropolitan government, with another 150 billion yen ($1.3 billion) coming from the national government.

But a month later, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said the city needed to chip in an added 810 billion yen ($7.2 billion) “for projects directly and indirectly related to the Games.” She said this included building barrier-free facilities for Paralympic athletes, training programs for volunteers, and advertising and tourism plans.

This raised the overall costs to 2.16 trillion yen, or about $19.1 billion.

The IOC and local organizers dispute these are Olympic expenses, describing them as “regular administrative costs” that fall “outside the overall Games budget.”

Flyvberg credited organizers of recent Olympics with trying to control costs, but tight Olympic deadlines make it difficult. Other large building projects can be pushed back a few months. Not the Olympics.

He also said it was inefficient for different cities to keep organizing the Games.

“All you can do when problems begin — and problems always begin on projects of this size — is to throw more money at the project,” Flyvberg said.

Another Tokyo cost increase popped up a few days ago.

A 178-page report by the Board of Audit said the national government’s share of spending had increased to 801 billion yen ($7.1 billion) from the $1.3 billion estimated back in December.

This brings total spending to 2.81 trillion yen, or just under $25 billion, with suggestions it could reach 3 trillion when the games open in just under two years.

The report said “a large amount of spending was expected to continue after 2018 leading up to the event.”

The report urged organizers, the Tokyo city government, central government, and local agencies to increase transparency.

In a statement Tuesday to The Associated Press, local organizers again disputed what should be called Olympic costs.

Spokesman Masa Takaya said expenditures listed such as “inbound tourism, road constructions, subsidy for creating a hydrogen society, and even improving accuracy of weather forecasts with better satellites,” should not be considered Olympic expenses.

The audit report also faulted Tokyo organizers for excluding other expenses from the budget. The report said these came to about 650 billion yen ($5.6 billion) and included things like: repairs to existing buildings; security costs; the cost of running doping facilities.

It said the organizing committee’s December budget did “not reflect all the costs related to the operation of the event.”

About 80 percent of the $25 billion will be taxpayer money. The rest — about $5.3 billion — comes from the privately funded operating budget. This budget receives $1.7 billion from the IOC with the rest coming from sponsors, merchandising and ticket sales.

Tokyo organizers say they have saved billions in the last several years by using existing venues, holding shorter test events and by making other cuts in construction.

The IOC has also tried to promote frugality, aware that hidden and soaring costs have driven away many possible Olympic bidders — particularly for the Winter Olympics.

Three bidders remain for the 2026 Winter Olympics: Calgary, Canada; Stockholm, Sweden; Milan-Cortina, Italy. Several others dropped out.

Organizers of the recent Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, reported a budget surplus of $55 million this week. Meanwhile, the provincial government is complaining about paying millions for upkeep on empty venues, with the national government unwilling to assume the costs.

There is talk of razing several empty venues.

“Even though people try to bring down costs, it’s very difficult,” Flyvberg said. “But there is some progress. But not nearly as much as for other types of megaprojects.”

Flyvberg added that “for a city and nation to decide to stage the Olympic Games is to decide to take on one of the most costly and financially most risky type of megaproject that exists, something that many cities and national have learned too their peril.”

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Olympian Tasha Schwikert says she is a Larry Nassar survivor, speaks out on Steve Penny

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Tasha Schwikert is at least the ninth Olympian to come forward as a Larry Nassar survivor.

“After months of grappling with the decision, I have decided to come forward as a victim of Larry Nassar,” was tweeted from the 2000 Olympic bronze medalist Schwikert’s account. “I want to join my former teammates and fellow survivors to help enact REAL change at @USAGym and @TeamUSA. #MeToo.

“I refuse to remain a victim. It is time for @USAGym and @TeamUSA to come clean and be held accountable for the toxic environment that enabled Nassar’s abuse. Only then will we see REAL change.”

Schwikert, now 33, was the youngest woman on the 2000 Olympic team across all sports, the U.S. all-around champion in 2001 and 2002, the 2003 World champion team captain and an alternate for the 2004 Olympic team.

Schwikert also said that ex-USA Gymnastics president and CEO Steve Penny pressed her to publicly support USA Gymnastics at the height of the Nassar scandal, according to ABC’s “World News Tonight.”

Penny was arrested Wednesday and indicted on charges he tampered with evidence in the Nassar sexual-assault investigation and on Thursday banned for life from USA Gymnastics. Penny’s lawyers said he is “confident that when all the facts are known it will be shown that he did nothing criminal.”

“Steve had always manipulated all of us, really, but I felt indebted to him,” Schwikert said on ABC. “Him and USA Gymnastics made me feel like if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be the person or the athlete who I was.”

She is at least the second member of the Sydney 2000 team to come forward as a Nassar survivor, joining Jamie Dantzscher, the first Olympian to do so in February 2017.

USA Gymnastics posted a statement from Schwikert on social media the night Dantzscher’s first interview aired, saying, “As a member of the national team from 1999-2004, I firmly believe USA Gymnastics always had my health and well-being top of mind. The program provided me with the resources and experiences that helped me achieve my goals.”

Penny resigned a month later.

Seven of the eight members of the 2012 or 2016 Olympic women’s artistic gymnastics teams have also come forward — Simone BilesGabby Douglas, Aly RaismanMcKayla MaroneyJordyn WieberKyla Ross and Madison Kocian. As have world championships team members among the hundreds of girls and women who said Nassar sexually abused them under the guise of medical treatment when he worked for Michigan State and USA Gymnastics.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Madison Hubbell, Zach Donohue can make it 10 straight at Skate America

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If Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue ever lacked motivation in the post-Olympic summer, they needed only scan their Montreal training ice.

They would spot France’s Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, the only ice dancers from the Olympic podium who return this season. Papadakis and Cizeron relegated the Americans to silver at March’s world championships, one month after Hubbell and Donohue were fourth in PyeongChang (the French took silver). They have trained under the same coaches in Quebec for three years.

They would also see Madison Chock and Evan Bates and Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker, the third- and fourth-place finishers from January’s U.S. Championships. Those couples moved to the Montreal group in the spring. They are Hubbell and Donohue’s top threats to repeat as national champions in Detroit in three months, given U.S. silver medalists Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani are also taking a break.

Practicing next to rivals is often shunned in sports. It has elevated ice dance the last several years.

Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir and Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White trained together in Michigan and split the Olympic gold and silver medals in 2010 and 2014.

When Virtue and Moir returned from a two-year break in 2016, they joined the Montreal group and went one-two with training partners Papadakis and Cizeron at every major competition through PyeongChang.

Hubbell and Donohue thrived last season, their third in Montreal, winning their first national title after six straight years of finishing third or fourth. They were in position for an Olympic medal, third after the short dance, but Donohue fell in the free dance (as he did at 2017 Worlds after they were third in the short).

Then at worlds in March, they delivered back-to-back podium-worthy performances on the global stage for the first time for that silver medal. They are the world No. 2 and the favorites at this weekend’s Skate America, with the French not in the field.

U.S. couples have won nine straight Skate Americas, more than the other three disciplines combined in the last decade.

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“Clearly this formula is working for them,” NBC Sports analyst and 2006 Olympic ice dance silver medalist Tanith White said. “It has proven to work for many of the greatest teams in ice dance over the last few decades. … I cannot see a drawback.”

Hubbell and Donohue (and Papadakis and Cizeron) appear to agree.

They joked back and forth at a press conference after worlds in March. Asked how they would spend the offseason, Cizeron looked straight at Hubbell and Donohue and said, jokingly, “Our goal is to get drunk together as many times as we can.”

“As much as our own personal accomplishment is pretty incredible, being on the podium with training mates and having, literally, everyone from our training center skate the best programs of their season, all at the same competition, was pretty incredible,” Donohue said last week.

Hubbell and Donohue should breeze through Skate America in Everett, Wash. Nobody else from the top nine in PyeongChang is in the field. They’re the favorites next week at Skate Canada, too.

The first real test will be at December’s Grand Prix Final, where Papadakis and Cizeron should join them. Hubbell and Donohue never outscored the French in nine head-to-head competitions and were more than 10 points adrift at worlds.

“The French, where they left off last season, I think that they are still in a category on their own based on the last time we saw those two teams go up against each other,” White said. 

Hubbell said the world silver medal showed that they had tackled their demons, fear and history of errors. If the next goal is gold, they must conquer a much more visible foe, one they see every day on the ice.

“The podium at worlds,” Hubbell said, “was the moment I was able to leave that season behind me and go into the future.”

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