Boosting Disaster Preparedness

Some Japanese concert facilities have begun emergency drills using full audiences to train staff in the event of a natural or man-made disaster. The venues organize genuine concerts or plays and invite the public for free with the understanding that sometime during the performance they will participate in a simulated emergency evacuation drill. In the end, of course, they get to see a full performance.

The Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper recently reported on one such facility’s drill. The New National Theater in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, staged a full opera in its Opera House. They solicited audience members and then selected 1,200 from the number who applied. During the performance itself, alarms went off and staff poured into the auditorium to give instructions and keep order with the lights down. One 72-year-old participant told the newspaper that he had been in a theater in Tokyo when the Great East Japan Earthquake occurred in March 2011. "I was very uneasy," he said. "Being allowed to participate in this kind of drill makes me feel secure."

It was the second time for the National Theater to carry out a disaster drill. The first time was in 2014, and it was filmed by the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology. Based on the footage, the institute calculated where best to position staff and the locations where the flow of people was more of a problem. An official of the theater told Yomiuri that they plan to carry out similar drills in their smaller venues, which are located in the same building.

The idea of solicited performances for the purpose of training staff to deal with emergencies was created by a municipal theater in 2011 in the city of Mito, which is close to the area affected by the 2011 killer temblor. This year other such drills were conducted in various localities throughout Japan.

Overworked Olympic Stadium Official Dies


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Photo: AP photo / Shizuo Kambayashi

Japan Olympic Stadium Construction - Stadium stands are getting closer as construction continues at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo, which will host the 2020 Summer Olympic Games. The progress follows 10 months of underground foundation work.

Japan's labor standards office has determined that a 23-year-old man who committed suicide last spring was the victim of “karoshi,” meaning death from overwork.

The lawyer for the man's family told reporters last week that the man, who was in charge of quality control for the new national stadium being constructed for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, recorded 190 hours of overtime during the month prior to his death. NHK, Japan's public broadcaster, reported that the man had only held this position for less than a year.

Karoshi is a prevalent problem in Japan, and the legal threshold for determining if a person may have died of overwork is 80 hours of overtime. Apparently, the man in question worked other months during his year on the job where his overtime hours exceeded 80.

Japanese media have been covering the story since the family of the man, who has not been identified by name, sought certification of his death as being the result of overwork. Construction of the new national stadium has been delayed several times because of design and other problems, and the organizers are desperate to get it finished in plenty of time before the start of the games in August 2020. The man's body was found in the mountains in central Japan in April, several weeks after he disappeared, with a suicide note saying that he was “physically and mentally pushed to the limit.”

In September, labor officials found illegal overtime at nearly 40 subcontractors involved in the stadium construction. For the time being, however, construction companies have been excluded from new government rules limiting overtime because of the severe labor shortage in the industry.

Halloween Ticket Horror

Another ticket scam is hitting Singapore. According to The Star Online, people are offering tickets for Universal Studios Singapore’s popular annual Halloween Horror night online and then not delivering them.

The tickets are being offered on internet marketplaces, usually at impressive discounts, which makes them extra tempting. For instance, the price of a regular ticket is about $68, and one young woman who was scammed said she transferred $80 for a pair she found advertised on Carousell. The woman said she initially was drawn to the advertisement because the attached account had lots of “likes.”

In addition, the account user said online that he worked for USS and even sent her an image of a company pass, albeit with the photo and name blacked out. After the woman transferred funds, however, the user disappeared.

Police estimate USS-related Halloween scams have netted more than $21,500 so far, comprising at least 35 reported fraudulent solicitations since Aug. 30. There are still two weeks to go before the event itself. Last year, there were 30 claims altogether. The highest amount for a single scam this year was about $7,000.

In most cases, the culprit would either fail to deliver tickets after the payment was made, or send the buyer fake tickets, in which case the buyer wouldn't realize the ticket was fake until they showed up at the venue, so there could be more revelations of scams on the day of the event. In addition to Carousell, some of the scams were perpetrated through Facebook.

The USS Halloween party isn't the only event being scammed. In August alone, police received almost 250 reports of e-commerce fraud, 50 percent more than were reported in July. However, year-on-year, the number seems to be dropping slightly.

A spokesman for Resorts World Sentosa told The Star that guest should only purchase tickets to USS's Halloween Horror Nights through “the official website or at our on-site ticketing booths.”

FIFA Sales Slow

India is hosting its first FIFA tournament in October, and on Oct. 6 an official told the AFP news service that the local organizers were busy trying to give away 27,000 tickets to the opening games of the U-17 World Cup.

Apparently, sales for the games, despite lots of media coverage, have been poor, and the organizers want to make sure the 56,000-seat Jawaharlala Nehru Stadium in New Delhi is full when Prime Minister Narendra Modi attends the opener, in which India plays against the United States.

Some of the coverage has been negative, which may be one reason for poor sales. Greenpeace issued a report on Oct. 4 that said India’s notoriously bad air pollution posed a “serious risk” to players and spectators.

New Delhi is particularly dangerous. Moreover, the tournament coincides with the Diwali festival, which Hindus celebrate by setting off large amounts of fireworks, exacerbating the air quality problem. For that reason, there will be no matches in Delhi once the festival starts. The country's Supreme Court has even ordered local authorities to ban automobiles in some parts of Delhi and closing the factories of notorious polluters temporarily.