Olympics: Row brews over 2020 Tokyo Games bill, new venues

Ms Yuriko Koike, at yesterday’s press conference, reiterating her aim to cut costs a day after a panel said organisation costs for Tokyo 2020 could swell four times.
Ms Yuriko Koike, at yesterday’s press conference, reiterating her aim to cut costs a day after a panel said organisation costs for Tokyo 2020 could swell four times. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

TOKYO • The Governor of Tokyo, Ms Yuriko Koike, is heading for a confrontation with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the organisers of the 2020 Games over a warning that the Games could cost three trillion yen (S$40 billion) - four times the original estimate - and a proposal to cancel the construction of three new venues.

A panel she formed, comprising independent experts, to review venues and costs recently proposed renovating existing venues in Tokyo for volleyball and swimming, and moving the rowing and canoe sprint events several hundred kilometres from the capital.

But the head of the International Rowing Federation, Jean-Christophe Rolland, said he was disappointed by the prospect of the venue being moved from Tokyo Bay to the city of Tome in Miyagi, one of three prefectures that were hit hard by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

He suggested that the rowing event should be held, as originally planned, at the Umi no Mori (Sea Forest) venue.

"I was very surprised… to hear about a possible change and, not to say more, a little bit disappointed," he said in Tokyo yesterday. "We made a full in-depth review of all the possibilities, and the outcome of this is that the Sea Forest is the best solution.

"For me, there is no doubt this is absolutely suitable for the sport of rowing."

The Tokyo government panel suggested the venue changes after warning that the total cost of the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games could rise to four times the original estimate of 734 billion yen, made when it won the bid in 2013. The 2012 Olympics in London cost £8.8 billion (S$15.4 billion).

Ms Koike, who became Tokyo's first female governor in July, has promised to cut wasteful spending and identified the Olympics as one area where savings could be made.

The hosting of the Games was also in the spotlight on Monday when Mr Barack Obama suggested that the votes for which cities host the event may be corrupt. The US President spoke to the New York magazine in relation to Chicago's failed bid for the 2016 Olympics. In 2009 he travelled to Copenhagen in a vain effort to get his adopted home city across the finishing line.

He said: "I think we've learnt that IOC's decisions are similar to Fifa's decisions: a little bit cooked. We didn't even make the first cut, despite the fact that, by all the objective metrics, the American bid was the best. On the flight back, we already knew that we didn't get it."

Chicago, one of four bidding cities, was the first to be eliminated in the voting, stunning the Americans, while Rio de Janeiro emerged to win the vote.

THE GUARDIAN, THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 05, 2016, with the headline 'Row brews over Games bill, new venues'. Print Edition | Subscribe