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Venue changes ‘last chance’ to cut Tokyo 2020 costs, says Governor

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike has said proposals to change three venues for the 2020 summer Olympic and Paralympic 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 (pictured) 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 today (Wednesday) told the Reuters news agency that the proposals remain on the table ahead of a meeting with International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach next week to ensure that Tokyo’s Games does not result in a legacy of debt. “As the Games approach, costs will rise even more than now,” she said. “As choices disappear, we will be asked to pay still more. Now is our last chance.”

In its bid plan, Tokyo had estimated costs of 734 billion yen with 85 per cent of venues located within 8km of the athletes’ village. However, Koike said this promise has proved difficult to keep without burdening Tokyo. “Without limits, the analysis was that costs would rise close to 3 trillion yen,” she said, declining to give a specific budget cap besides “whatever we can at this point”.

Regarding the proposal for venue changes, she added: “Scrutiny and review of all the venues has yet to be completed, so we must await that analysis while remaining in contact with the International Olympic Committee and the individual sports federations. Based on that, we will make our final decision.”

Meanwhile, Tokyo 2020 executive board member Toshiaki Endo has maintained that the rowing and canoeing venue should stay at Tokyo bay instead of being relocated to an existing facility in Miyagi prefecture. World Rowing Federation (FISA) president Jean-Christophe Rolland last week expressed his concern over the proposed move.

Meanwhile, Tokyo organisers have listed several objections to the existing facility in Miyagi, including lack of infrastructure, accommodation for spectators and inconvenience for athletes. Organisers also believe the final construction cost for the new Sea Forest Waterway will likely be lower than original estimates.

Endo said, according to the Associated Press news agency: “I would like to stress once again that the decision was made unanimously and based on thorough investigations. We have conducted careful examinations of all candidate rowing sites.

“As a result, all parties including the IOC, the international federations, the national federations, Tokyo 2020 organising committee and the Tokyo metropolitan government came to the conclusion that Sea Forest Waterway was the most promising and best suited for the hosting of rowing competitions.”