MONACO (REUTERS) - The International Olympic Committee on Monday voted to allow host cities to move events to other towns, or countries, in a break with the tradition of keeping the Games in one location.
The decision fuels speculation regarding the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics, with sources saying that talks were being held to move the sliding competitions to Japan.
IOC President Thomas Bach did not rule out such a move, saying any change would be done after discussions with the hosts.
"It means we will start discussions with organising committees to see what their ideas and plans are and then there will be a result in an agreement," Bach told reporters. "It can only be in an agreement because these host cities got the Games with the host city contract and the IOC will deliver on the host city contract. If there is an agreement the way is open for other solutions."
IOC vice-president John Coates, presenting the recommendation to IOC members, said it was driven by the need to contain costs.
"The compactness of the Games has to be weighed up against the benefit of using existing venues," the Australian said. "These changes do contemplate different cities and countries hosting the Games, and this is for reasons of sustainability."
The Russian city of Sochi spent a staggering US$51 billion (S$67.38 billion) on staging this year's Winter Olympics with the future of many of the new, gleaming venues in doubt.
Pyeongchang's preparations for the first Asian winter Olympics outside Japan have been hit by budget problems and delays in some venues.
Construction for the sliding track has started but a move could save Pyeongchang tens of millions of dollars in construction as well as annual maintenance.
A source said the international luge and bobsleigh federations were already discussing with Korean Games officials a possible move of some of the competitions to Japan. "This suggestion is out there," one source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters. "The two federations and organisers are talking about this."
Pyeongchang officials confirmed several options were being considered, though a potential move to Japan from South Korea, with current ties between the two Asian nations in a deep freeze, is seen as highly controversial.
Japan Olympic Committee President Tsunekazu Takeda said no official request had been received.
"We have heard nothing about this. But if Pyeongchang is interested in using our facilities, we would like to take up this point and communicate in a constructive way," Takeda told reporters.
The IOC is eager to reduce the cost of staging the Olympics and make their product more attractive to potential hosts.
"We have to look at the cost of legacy and weigh that up against the cost of sustainability," said Coates. "Any change to use other cities would have to be considered, and granted, by the IOC executive board weighing up all the circumstances."