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IOC backs Tokyo 2020 preparations, additional sports decision

International Olympic Committee (IOC) vice-president John Coates has given Tokyo 2020 a vote of confidence following a testing recent period for Olympic Games organisers and has backed the selection of additional sports to be considered for inclusion at the event.

Coates, head of the IOC’s Coordination Commission for the 2020 Games, was speaking today (Wednesday) as the body wrapped up its fourth visit to assess preparations in Tokyo. The IOC visit came after Japan’s Sports Minister Hakubun Shimomura last month offered his resignation in the wake of the furore caused by the decision to open a new design process for Tokyo’s new National Stadium, the centrepiece of the city’s staging of the 2020 Olympic Games.

The original vision for the National Stadium was scrapped in July when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that the price tag for the development had become too costly at Y250bn (€1.8bn/$2bn). Abe and the government had come under increasing pressure from the public to scale back costs. The government has begun to accept new bids for the project, which now has a budget of Y155bn.

Tokyo 2020 has also been forced to launch a fresh tender process for an official logo after allegations of plagiarism led to the withdrawal of the original design last month. These factors have caused much embarrassment to a nation that prides itself on strong organisational skills. However, Coates said the IOC is satisfied with Tokyo 2020’s efforts so far.

“It’s clear to us from the two days we’ve had here that the close relationships between all the parties for the preparation of your Games is going from strength to strength,” he said, according to the Japan Times newspaper. “The foundations have been laid and they are very solid.”

Organisers are set to launch a public competition to find a new logo, which will be open to all Japanese residents over the age of 18, including foreign nationals. “We received confirmation of the announcement that was made recently of the process, which we are very impressed with,” Coates said. “The wide consultation impresses us and we are looking forward to the process as it unfolds.”

The Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee has proposed baseball/softball, karate, skateboarding, sports climbing and surfing as additional sports for its staging of the Olympic Games. Last month’s decision meant that bowling, squash and wushu failed to make the cut from the shortlist of eight international federations unveiled in June.

The decision meant squash again failed to make the final cut with World Squash Federation president N Ramachandran last week stating he will seek an explanation from the IOC over the selection process, adding that he found last month’s decision “difficult to understand”.

The final decision on the Tokyo 2020 programme will be made by the IOC at the 129th IOC Session in Rio de Janeiro in August 2016. “Our reaction is that it’s a very good, balanced package,” Coates said. “We have traditional sports and then sports that are innovative, new and will appeal to the youth of the world. We have outdoor sports, we have indoor sports, and it’s that assessment of that package as a whole that it is very important.”

He added: “There were always going to be some that were not selected. They had the opportunity twice to present. I’m sure Tokyo fully understands what those sports had to offer. I have no issue on transparency there.”