New Tokyo governor pledges Olympic cost probe

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike walking past Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games flags to make a speech at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building on Aug 2, 2016.
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike walking past Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games flags to make a speech at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building on Aug 2, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (AFP) - Tokyo's new governor on Tuesday (Aug 2) promised a formal review of the megacity's problem-plagued preparations for the 2020 Olympics as concerns grow over soaring costs.

Yuriko Koike, elected Sunday as the Japanese capital's first female governor, said a special panel would review whether Tokyo tax money has been and will be used appropriately.

The 64-year-old political veteran reported for her first official day of work and held a press conference at which she announced the formation of a special team to assess where things stand.

"Budgeting, preparation, and the validity of the road map (to 2020) will be up for a fresh review by third-party individuals," Koike said, adding that an interim report would be released as early as next month.

"What is most important in Tokyo politics is transparency," Koike said, hammering home a point she made immediately after claiming victory Sunday night.

The 2020 Games, awarded to Tokyo in 2013, have been marred by a series of embarrassing setbacks over stadium construction and the official logo.

But a key concern ahead of the election was the estimated cost of hosting the event, seen as possibly doubling or even tripling from the reported original forecast of 730 billion yen (S$9.6 billion).

Officials from the central government, Tokyo and the Olympic organising committee have also publicly clashed over sharing the cost of a new national stadium under construction for the Games.

The election of Koike, a former defence and environment minister, came after the previous two incumbents had to resign over financial scandals. If Koike can complete her four-year term she will be governor until just after the 2020 Games open.

Japan had to scrap the original design of the new stadium because of its construction cost, while organisers also had to change the official logo after the original designer was accused of plagiarism.

But those fiascos have since been overshadowed by allegations of corruption. French prosecutors have launched an investigation into alleged bribes linked to Tokyo's bid. Organisers have denied wrongdoing.