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Stumbling block for Tokyo 2020 venue plan ahead of key talks

The potential relocation of rowing and canoeing events at the 2020 summer Olympic Games to a different venue in Japan has been called into question after the Tokyo metropolitan government stated that the redevelopment of the proposed site in Miyagi Prefecture might not be completed in time.

Naganuma rowing course in Tome, Miyagi – one of the prefectures hit hardest by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami – has been proposed as an alternative to Sea Forest Waterway in Tokyo Bay following a report compiled by panel set up by Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike (pictured) to review the escalating estimated cost of the Games.

However, Japanese news agency Kyodo, citing a source close to the matter, said that the Tokyo municipal government had concluded that refurbishing the Naganuma site could not be completed for the Games, given the time needed to buy land and carry out an environmental impact assessment.

The development comes ahead of the start of a three-day meeting tomorrow (Tuesday). A working group comprising representatives from the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Tokyo metropolitan and Japanese governments, and the Games organising committee will hold talks on proposed new venues for the 2020 Olympics. The four-party group was proposed by IOC president Thomas Bach in a meeting with Koike earlier this month.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, Koike said she is likely to put forward several ideas tomorrow to keep options open, at the IOC’s request. “I've been asked by the IOC to have discussion before narrowing it down to one proposal, so there have been changes (from what I had in mind),” Koike said, according to Kyodo. “We'll put together several options and seek the solution through a four-way discussion. At the same time, I'm not sure about tossing out all sorts of ideas. We have to narrow it down to a certain extent if we are not to miss the last chance to re-examine venues.”

Koike has previously said that 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 more than Y3tr (€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.

The World Rowing Federation (FISA) has hit out at proposals to change the venue for rowing competitions at Tokyo 2020, saying that the current site is the only one that meets proper standards. Reports have suggested that rowing and canoe events could also be moved to South Korea, should the original hosting plans be scrapped.

Kyodo said Koike’s panel is looking at ways of setting up Sea Forest Waterway as a permanent facility with reduced costs, building it as a temporary site to be removed after the Games or turning Naganuma into a permanent facility.