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IOC maintains cost-cutting drive as water pollution concerns return for Tokyo 2020

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has wrapped up its latest inspection visit to Tokyo with a vow to cut costs for the 2020 summer Olympics, as the issue of water pollution at the Games again returned to the surface.

A two-day meeting between the IOC and Tokyo 2020 concluded today (Wednesday) with IOC vice-president John Coates (pictured) stating that the IOC needs to see cuts of $1bn (€839.1m) from the $12bn budget. Coates, who chairs the IOC’s Coordination Commission for Tokyo 2020, said he believes costs can be lowered in 11 of the 14 areas that were discussed during the meetings.

Coates said the IOC is seeking to find savings of $1bn and $500m, respectively, for future hosts of the summer and winter Olympics. “That's the target that we think should be achievable not just by Tokyo but by all summer organising committees,” Coates said of the $1bn figure, according to the Associated Press news agency. “What we are trying to do is create a situation where there is no strain on the public purse.”

Coates cited the example of research from previous Games demonstrating that Olympic family lounges operate at only 40 per cent capacity, meaning Tokyo 2020 could save money on staffing such facilities.

In May, local governments outside Tokyo that are due to host events agreed with the Tokyo metropolitan government, the Japanese government and Tokyo 2020 on basic principles concerning cost sharing. Tokyo 2020 president Yoshiro Mori said today that it will be crucial to explore cost cutting “based on the framework” reached in May.

In other news, Tokyo 2020 has conceded that testing of the water quality at the planned venue for marathon swimming and triathlon showed levels of E. Coli up to 20 times above the accepted limit and faecal coliform bacteria seven times higher than agreed.

The subject of pollution at the open water venues was a major problem ahead of the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and is now set to return for Tokyo 2020. Local organisers today pledged to improve the water quality to ensure the safety of athletes, including through installing underwater screens at Odaiba Marine Park. They will also consider amending event dates and times during the Games in response to weather conditions.

“We will take the best possible measures to make sure that the venue satisfies all relevant standards of international federations and that athletes can perform at their best feeling very safe,” Koji Murofushi, Tokyo 2020 sports director, said, according to the Reuters news agency.

Tokyo 2020 blamed a near-record 21 straight days of rain in August, as tests carried out during 26 days between July and September showed water quality standards set by the International Federations were met on only 10 days for marathon swimming and just six days for triathlon.

In a statement, Fina, the global governing body of aquatic sports, said: “Fina will keep working closely with the Tokyo Metropolitan government and Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee to ensure the best available venue and environment for the marathon swimming events in 2020.”