Hiroshi Mizohata, director of the Osaka Convention and Tourism Bureau, believes an Osaka IR could be open as early as 2027.
His comments were made during an added session of the recent Japan IR Forum Online, run by the Japan IR Association last month. Mizohata missed the live event after contracting COVID-19 but his session was recorded afterwards and made public last week.
Since the IR operator will be decided in September this year, we will work with the operator to make an area development plan, he said during a presentation. In 2022, tourism will return to pre-corona levels, with construction for the 2025 World Expo starting in 2023.
The IR would then open later in 2027 or 2028.
Despite admitting he feared for his life due to the severity of the virus, Mizohata said he wants life to return to normal as soon as possible and he intends to hold FOODEX Japan, known as the World Cup of Food, in Kansai in July, followed by Tourism EXPO Japan 2021 in November at INTEX Osaka.
Although tourism has been suddenly limited, like going from an express to a local train, we are getting ready for our counter attack, he said.
The [impact of] COVID-19 will inevitably shrink and I would like to look past the pandemic and work hard to create an attractive city through the mechanisms of the World Expo and IR. I want Osaka to be a nice place to live, work and study.
Mizohata also denied concerns that COVID-19 could also impact an Osaka IR by delaying plans to connect Kansa International Airport with Osakas largest train terminal, Umeda Station seen as key to improving access to Yumeshima Island. Osakas plan, he said, had not changed.