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IOC and Japanese authorities form group to address Tokyo 2020 cost concerns

International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach and Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike have agreed to establish a four-party working group in an effort to address increasing concerns over rising costs for the Japanese capital’s staging of the 2020 summer Olympic Games, as reports indicated that South Korea could potentially step in amid a dispute over the venue for rowing and canoeing.

The group was proposed by Bach after a meeting with Koike in Tokyo today (Tuesday) and will consist of the IOC, Tokyo 2020 local organising committee and the metropolitan and central Japanese governments. The group is set to meet for the first time after Koike decides by the end of this month on the recommendations, which include potential venue changes, put forward by her review panel on spending.

Bach stated that the IOC does not want “mottainai” – the Japanese word for wastefulness – on a number of occasions during the meeting with Koike. “The IOC is ready today,” he said, according to Japanese news agency Kyodo.

“It is up to the Tokyo metropolitan government then to tell us when they are ready to present a final paper to this four-partite commission so that then it can be discussed. And then after this discussion we hopefully have an agreement which is in the interest of everybody who is participating in this effort.”

However, Bach reminded Koike not to forget the initial pledges that Tokyo made when winning the right to stage the Games. “What we also have to respect is the fair competition in which Tokyo won the rights to host the Olympic Games three years ago,” Bach said. “Tokyo and Japan won because they presented a very convincing project.

“I think it's in the interests of Japan, the IOC and Tokyo that we do not change the rules of the competition after the election because we all know that the Japanese people and people of Tokyo are reliable partners who are delivering on their commitment.”

Koike last week said proposals to change three venues for the 2020 Games represent the “last chance” to cut costs for the event, as local organisers continued to rail against plans to relocate rowing and canoeing some 250 miles north of the capital.

A Tokyo government panel last month urged the organising committee for the Japanese capital’s staging of the 2020 Games to relocate three venues for the multi-sport event after warning that costs of hosting could soar to over 3 trillion yen (€25.8bn/$29bn), over four times the figure that was originally planned.

The panel, appointed by Koike to find ways to save money on hosting the Games, published a report that recommended venues for rowing and canoeing, swimming and volleyball be moved outside of Tokyo to alternate sites.

Koike maintained today that she has the weight of public opinion behind her. “When I won the election (for Tokyo governor) two months ago, I swore to the public the spending for the Olympics and Paralympics needed to be reviewed,” Koike said. “Recent polls say more than 80 per cent agree with me.

“One of the most important things I put forth when I became governor was transparency. A large section of the public knows how much these venues are costing us. If we are using public money, then we must have the consent and understanding of the public.”

Today’s meeting came amid multiple reports that the IOC is considering staging rowing and canoe events in South Korea should Tokyo’s original venue plan collapse. Kyodo said that if the rowing/canoe sprint site is moved from Sea Forest Waterway in Tokyo Bay, the IOC is looking into the Chungju Tangeum Lake International Rowing Center as a backup option.

The Korean Olympic Committee (KOC) said it has not been in contact with Tokyo organisers over the matter, but is prepared to help if needed. A KOC official told Kyodo: “We are aware that the IOC is discussing (the venue move), but we have not been approached. We have not received a formal request from the IOC, therefore we are not in a position to consider anything.”