2020 rowing, canoe may go to S. Korea

IOC president Thomas Bach and Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike after their meeting. The German is in Tokyo to look at preparations for the 2020 Olympics, which have been hit by cost over-runs, scrapping of plans for venues and accusations of corruption.
IOC president Thomas Bach and Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike after their meeting. The German is in Tokyo to look at preparations for the 2020 Olympics, which have been hit by cost over-runs, scrapping of plans for venues and accusations of corruption.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

IOC will work with Tokyo, Japan govt, Games organisers over Olympics' ballooning costs

TOKYO • The International Olympic Committee (IOC) chief and Tokyo's Governor yesterday agreed to work together on cutting skyrocketing costs for the 2020 Games, as reports said the IOC would consider moving some venues to South Korea.

Thomas Bach and Ms Yuriko Koike met for the first time since Tokyo's top official warned recently that Japan's capital could be forced to downsize or relocate three venues for the 2020 Games in drastic cost-cutting measures.

The pair agreed to set up a working group - comprising Tokyo's metropolitan government, the IOC, the 2020 organising committee, and central government - to help rein in snowballing costs.

"The IOC is fully committed to (hold) the Olympic Games in a very sustainable and feasible way," Bach said.

"We can very well look in the budget of the Tokyo 2020, we can look at the costs, and we can see how together we can make it even more feasible."

The meeting comes as a Japanese media report said the IOC was mulling over the relocation of the rowing and kayaking venue - one of three main venues that are facing extra scrutiny over costs - to neighbouring South Korea.

The option of moving the venue is reportedly being considered after a panel of experts Ms Koike set up to review costs recently proposed the alternative instead of building a new venue in Tokyo Bay.

The panel also suggested renovating existing venues in Tokyo for volleyball and swimming and scrapping plans to construct new stadia for these sports.

Bach did not comment on yesterday's report, but said the IOC would "respect a fair competition", referring to Tokyo winning the right to host the Games.

"We don't change the rules of the competition after the election," he added.

However, the IOC president said yesterday that any venue changes should take the athletes into account. "We have to respect experiences of athletes... because the athletes are the heart and soul of the Olympic Games," he said.

Tokyo organisers are wrestling with a series of embarrassing problems, including the scrapping of plans for the original Olympic stadium due to costs, and a French probe into alleged corruption.

Ms Koike swept into office in July, immediately ordering officials to rein in ballooning Olympic expenses, which one expert predicted could surpass 3 trillion yen (S$40 billion).

It is four times the original estimate and almost three times higher than London 2012.

Tokyo's preparations for the 2020 Games have been plagued by controversy since beating Madrid and Istanbul in the bidding race three years ago.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2016, with the headline '2020 rowing, canoe may go to S. Korea'. Print Edition | Subscribe