The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan



Strong Foundation for Success

Tokyo aims to host the most sustainable Games yet

Tokyo is on track with its early preparations for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, with General Electric (GE) firmly behind the campaign to make the event a dazzling and unforgettable sporting occasion.

With a mission to bring its global expertise and experience to bear on hosting the Games, GE Japan hosted the “Tokyo 2020 and Beyond” symposium at the Hotel Okura Tokyo in mid-November. The event coincided with a review of Japan’s progress to date by a team from the International Olympic Committee (IOC), headed by IOC Vice President John Coates.

“Fifty years ago, the first Olympic Games to be held in Asia were hosted here in Tokyo,” Coates told delegates at the outset of the symposium. “For those Games, Japan invited the world’s best athletes to come and compete. That inspired a nation of people to take up sport.

“The 1964 Olympic Games gave Japan the opportunity to re-emerge on the international stage,” he said. “And the success of the Games underlined Japan’s ability to unite as ‘Team Japan’ and to galvanize people behind a common cause.”

Looking to the upcoming 2020 Olympics—which will be on a scale far beyond what Tokyo experienced half-a-century ago—Coates said, “The IOC has been extremely pleased with the progress that we have witnessed over the course of our two-day examination meeting.

“Given the commitment and unity of the Japanese people, Tokyo 2020 will provide a transformational opportunity not only for Tokyo, but also for Japan.”

That legacy will stretch far beyond the closing ceremony for the largest multi-discipline sporting event on the planet, said Coates, who played a key role in organizing the Sydney Olympics in 2000. To this day, he emphasized, Sydney’s Olympic Park attracts thousands of visitors, and has brought positive, long-term benefits to Australian people.

He feels certain that the people of Tokyo will equally benefit from the city hosting the Games in just five years’ time.

Yoshiro Mori, president of the Tokyo Organizing Committee for the XXXII Olympiad, and a former prime minister of Japan, expressed his appreciation for the IOC team’s visit and support. He also called for the organization and former host cities to “share your wisdom” to ensure that the event goes off without any hitches.

Mori singled out GE to praise its unstinting support. “We have been working for a long time with GE, and this country also has a long history of working with the company, particularly around the time of the March 2011 earthquake, when GE helped us greatly by providing infrastructure support,” Mori said.

Thomas Edison famously used bamboo from Kyoto as a filament in his prototype light bulbs, and the Connecticut-based firm began business in Japan 130 years ago.

Today, GE employs 4,700 people here and is focused primarily on the healthcare, energy, aviation, and capital sectors. As well as 50 office locations across the country, it has manufacturing facilities in Hino (Tokyo), Yokosuka, Yokohama, and Kariwa (Niigata Prefecture).

An enthusiastic sponsor of the Olympic movement since 2003, Jeffrey Immelt, chairman and CEO of the company, said GE sees the 2020 Games as an excellent opportunity for the people of Japan, based on three broad themes.

The first is dedication, Immelt said, pointing to GE’s commitment to investing more than $6 billion a year in research and development. Tokyo needs to be similarly committed to introducing the latest technology and services to ensure that the Games are the best they can be.

Globalization is the second theme. Using his company as an example, Immelt said GE will next year earn more than 70 percent of its revenues from outside the United States. “The Olympics are a vehicle to open Japan to the world and to give everyone the opportunity to see this country for the first time,” he added.

The third component is innovation, he said. “The only successful companies in the 21st century will be innovative companies, and the Olympic Games and athletes are some of the best innovators in the world,” he explained.

“I believe that Tokyo 2020 will show off Japan’s tremendous capabilities, and the opportunity is there for Tokyo to reintroduce itself to the rest of the world,” Immelt said, pointing to a number of areas in which Japan will be able to showcase its cutting-edge technology and know-how.

These include clean energy, with the Tokyo 2020 campaign positioning the Games as the “most sustainable Olympics in history.” The sustainability aim also entails increasing efficiency to leave a smaller carbon footprint, as well as ensuring a new level of inclusiveness for smaller companies.

“GE is a big believer in this country, this economy, and the people of Japan,” Immelt concluded.

And even though the IOC team expressed confidence in the Tokyo organizers’ progress to date for the 2020 event, they warned that the next five years are likely going to pass very swiftly.

“It’s going to go fast, and the amount of work that has to be accomplished in the last two years, in particular, is immense,” said Christophe Dubi, executive director of the IOC. “In fact, it’s terrifying.

“You have to build an organization that is the size of a multinational corporation to deliver the event,” he said. “You need to start in exactly the way that Tokyo 2020 has done, to establish strong foundations. And once you have elaborated the vision, then everyone can relate to that and work towards that goal.

“Those strong foundations mean that the master plan can be finalized safely,” he added.