TOKYO: The International Olympic Committee has refused to rule out the option of moving Tokyo 2020 Games venues to other Japanese cities in a bid to slash rocketing costs.
IOC executive director Christophe Dubi said on Thursday that the rowing and canoeing could take place in Miyagi prefecture, 250 miles (400 kilometres) north of Tokyo, and volleyball in Yokohama, south of the capital, following recommendations from a panel of experts.
“The options remain,” he told reporters after a four-party working group comprising Tokyo’s metropolitan government, the IOC, Olympic organisers and the Japanese government concluded three days of talks on reducing Games costs.
“The four-party working group will make the decision at the end of November,” Dubi added.
Tokyo lawmakers, led by governor Yuriko Koike, are pursuing cheaper options, such as relocating the canoeing and rowing while scaling back plans for a new swimming venue.
Their efforts come after the cost-cutting panel warned the total Games budget could hit an eye-watering $30 billion — four times the initial estimate and almost triple that of the 2012 London Olympics.
However, they have faced resistance from Tokyo 2020 organisers who argue that moving those events to tsunami-hit Miyagi could actually cost more as the region lacks the proper infrastructure.
As the sides clashed over a Tokyo Bay venue whose cost has soared seven-fold to $500 million, there were even reports the IOC could take the rowing and canoeing to South Korea, a move which would further embarrass beleaguered Japanese organisers.
But Dubi declared the four-party talks a success, insisting they had done much to ease tensions after panel chairman Shinichi Ueyama accused Tokyo organisers of “not cooperating” with efforts to save money.
“When you have one objective — to organise the best Games possible and leave most positive legacy for Tokyo, any effort in this direction is welcome,” he said.
“The feeling was that more information is needed in order to have a full and complete assessment (of the venue options).”
Tokyo organisers have lurched from one crisis to another since beating Madrid and Istanbul in the race to host the Games, with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe forced to rip up initial plans for the Olympic stadium after public outrage at its $2 billion price tag.
The Tokyo Olympic logo was then scrapped after accusations of plagiarism before French prosecutors launched an investigation into $2 million in payments which they suspect were made to help Tokyo secure the Games. Japanese Olympic officials have denied any wrongdoing.