In December of last year, Tokyo 2020 Olympic organizers celebrated the completion of its New National Stadium, which will be the centerpiece for this year’s summer Olympics. On December 21st, they were joined by Jamaican sprint legend Usain Bolt and other Olympic athletes in a One Race event aimed to “break down barriers created by mankind.”
While that all sounds great, the celebrations masked the fact that the construction of the Stadium actually came at a great cost. Lurking in its legacy is the fact that the Stadium was built at the expense of valuable tropical rainforests in Southeast Asia, with significant impacts on the climate, biodiversity, and local communities that rely on healthy forests for their livelihood.
Relentless NGO campaigning got the Tokyo 2020 organizers to disclose how much tropical wood they actually used to construct the Stadium, and the numbers are staggering. As of the end of Nov 2019, the Stadium itself used 120,800 large sheets of tropical plywood, all to mold concrete for the foundation and other structures. After a couple uses, they’re just thrown away.
Most of this plywood came from Indonesia, and in 2018, investigations with our partners— TuK INDONESIA and WALHI — exposed how the Tokyo 2020 Olympics’ major Indonesian wood supplier — Korindo — was sourcing much of its raw materials from Kalimantan, the Indonesian side of Borneo. We caught Korindo sourcing wood from rainforests that were being clear-cut to make way for palm oil plantations or coal mines, including a mine operated by Berau coal. What was sacrificed included important habitat of critically endangered Orangutans.
This was clearly unsustainable.
So who’s to blame? Obviously the Tokyo 2020 organizers didn’t do their due diligence in making sure the timber they were sourcing was sustainable. But the major sponsors share the blame as well. This includes Japanese megabanks Mizuho and SMBC, who are not only Gold Sponsors of the Tokyo Olympics, but also financiers of Sumitomo Forestry – the trading company that supplied the controversial Korindo wood to the Olympics. Both banks are also major financiers of coal power in Indonesia, which is fueling more coal mining, and in turn destroying rainforests.
It’s a vicious cycle that needs to end.