Fri, Sep 20, 2013 - Page 19 News List

Man losing home because of stadium — again

Reuters, TOKYO

Kohei Jinno shows a photograph of himself, second left, wearing suit, taken in 1957 in front of his previous home, at his shop inside the Kasumigaoka apartment complex near the National Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on Wednesday.

Photo: Reuters

Kohei Jinno fans out the black-and -white photos of his family posing proudly in front of their central Tokyo home, a house they were forced to leave ahead of the 1964 Olympic Games to make way for construction of the main stadium.

Now Jinno, 79, has to move again.

The public housing complex where he and his wife live, close to the stadium and the site of his former home — currently a parking lot — is slated to be demolished as part of construction of a new stadium for the 2020 Summer Olympics, which Tokyo won the right to host again earlier this month.

“Fate has not been kind to me. It may be great fortune for the nation, but having to leave this place fills me with sadness,” he said.

“I just feel that had it not been for the Olympics, my life would have been so different.”

The current National Olympic Stadium, which holds an almost iconic place in Japanese hearts for being the site of the opening and closing ceremonies of the 1964 Games, when Japan became the first Asian nation to host the Olympics, is set to be demolished next year to make way for newer facilities.

Its replacement, a futuristic spaceship-like venue by Zaha Hadid, who designed the aquatics center for the London 2012 Games, will have 80,000 seats compared with the current 50,000 and play a key role when Japan hosts the Rugby World Cup in 2019.

Jinno, who grew up with nine brothers, was born in a house that is now a concrete carpark by the National Stadium in downtown Tokyo. After that house burned down during World War Two, they moved to a home 20m away, where Jinno ran a tobacconist’s from a shop attached to the family house.

Ahead of the 1964 Olympics, their house and about 100 others were forced to move to make way for the stadium and a surrounding park. The site of their home was paved over for the carpark, the greenery that blanketed the area was cut down, and a nearby river buried in concrete.

His job gone, he was forced to wash cars to make ends meet, living in a tiny room with his wife and two children. In 1965 he moved into a municipal housing complex and was eventually able to reopen the tobacconist’s, which he still runs today.

Recently, he and his wife were told they must move again, leaving the home where they raised their children. Jinno reckons they have at most two years left at the same address.

“It’s like they’re taking away the most precious thing I have after my family,” he said. “Because of the Olympics I’m going to lose the community I love so much, the friends that have kept me going so long.”

“In their place I’m getting uncertainty, loneliness and pain,” he said.

Tokyo touted a US$4.5 billion war chest in the bank for the Games and estimates an economic impact of ¥3 trillion (US$30.2 billion) and the creation of 150,000 jobs.

Stocks rose after Tokyo was chosen over Madrid and Istanbul on Sept. 7 and property firms, hotels and construction firms are expected to gain as a result.

Jinno, who turns 80 next month, has no idea where he will move, or when. He said 200 families in the same complex, most of them elderly, face the same dilemma.

“I wish they wouldn’t have the Olympics in Tokyo again,” he said. “I can bear getting evicted if it’s just the once in a lifetime, but twice? It’s ridiculous.”

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