IOC warns Tokyo over potential venue switches

Alastair HIMMER
A fireworks display is seen over Japan's national stadium during the stadium's official farewell event in Tokyo on May 31, 2014
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A fireworks display is seen over Japan's national stadium during the stadium's official farewell event in Tokyo on May 31, 2014 (AFP Photo/Toshifumi Kitamura)

Tokyo (AFP) - Any plans Tokyo has to change venues for the 2020 Olympics will first have to be approved by the relevant sport's world governing body, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said Friday.

Tokyo Governor Yoichi Masuzoe recently ordered a review of venue plans because of concerns about costs, but IOC vice-president John Coates insisted Japanese officials would need to go through the correct channels for any revisions.

"There will be no changes unless there is the full sign-off from all the international federations," Coates told reporters at the end of the IOC's first three-day visit to the 2020 Olympic host city.

"We want to see the use of more existing venues and the use of more temporary venues. We would like to see this done as soon as possible, and we would like to know where we are going with the venues."

Tokyo, which staged Asia's first Olympics in 1964, beat Madrid and Istanbul for the rights to host the 2020 Games in last September's IOC vote.

The city's "compact" bid, with 85 percent of the venues located inside an eight-kilometre (five-mile) ring, was popular among IOC members after years of sky-rocketing Olympic costs.

However, Tokyo's organising committee president Yoshiro Mori insisted a review of existing venue plans was necessary in order to keep Olympic spending in check, putting Japanese officials on a potential collision course with the IOC.

"The issue of cost is a critical one," said the former Japanese prime minister. "The taxpayers are footing the bill. We will look to see if there is any overlap of waste in terms of venues.

"We will see if some venues can be used for more than sport. We have until February to submit our foundation plan."

One of the venues set to be moved is the canoe slalom course at Kasai seaside park following opposition from environmental groups, while basketball and badminton could also be bumped well outside the main waterfront area near the Olympic village.

In addition to the issue of venue switches, there is a groundswell of opposition to architect Zaha Hadid's design for the rebuilding of Tokyo's National Stadium, which critics slammed as too expensive and a potential eyesore on the skyline.

Tokyo officials estimate the total cost of venues at around 150 billion yen ($1.47 billion), including the construction of 10 new facilities, although some assembly members fear the price could double.

Coates, meanwhile, refused to be drawn on reports that Mori wanted overseas athletes to set up training camps near Fukushima, site of a triple nuclear meltdown following the devastating tsunami in March, 2011.

"We have no details of specific locations," he said, asked about a possible risk of exposure to radiation. "But I'm sure national Olympic committees would be mindful of that."