The International Olympic Committee executive board on Friday gave the greenlight to organizers of the Tokyo 2020 Games to move three competition venues as part of a plan to trim more than $1 billion from the budget.
The IOC board meeting in Rio de Janeiro focused on preparations for the Tokyo games in five years time as well as the next Winter Olympics in the South Korean city of Pyeongchang in 2018.
Tokyo Games CEO Toshiro Muto said the Japanese had submitted three venue changes as part of a plan to cut costs of the sporting extravaganza.
“It is a year since we established the organizing committee and we are putting together our vision,” said Muto, who said organizers proposed moving basketball outside Tokyo to Saitama an hour away.
Rising labor and construction costs have also prompted Japan to rein back plans for new sites for canoe slalom — moving from a park to allay environmental concerns — and equestrian events, to be hosted at Baji Park, a 1964 venue.
IOC executive director Christoph Dubi called Saitama’s 37,000 arena Super Arena a “fantastic venue” and forecast “considerable savings” from the proposals.
Tokyo organizers earlier Friday submitted their Games Foundation Plan to the IOC as Japan’s capital prepares to become the first Asian city to stage a second Summer Games having hosted in 1964.
Like Rio, Tokyo has not escaped controversy on budgets.
The city has seen public protests in recent months over plans to demolish the National Stadium and replace it with a huge 80,000-seater stadium designed by British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid.
Campaigners say the new design, standing some 70 meters high and with initial cost of some $3 billion before a revised plan was submitted costing around 40 percent less, is too big for its local environment.
Muto said the stadium’s size and cost is “an issue for the government. We will just operate the stadium.”
The Tokyo team initially pledged to have some 80 percent of venues within eight kilometers (five miles) radius of the Olympic Village, but some events will now move to existing facilities further afield as part of plans to lop around $1.7 billion off the overall budget.
PyeongChang organizers and the IOC meanwhile announced the creation of a special taskforce to speed up preparations for 2018.
Gunilla Lindberg, who chair’s the 2018 Games coordination commission, had earlier met with Pyeongchang organizing committee chief Cho Yang-ho to propose the creation of the 10-strong group, which will meet monthly.
Rio CEO Carlos Nuzman meanwhile told reporters there was “no decision as yet” on whether next year’s Games will have one flame or two, saying the question of having one flame at the iconic Maracana football stadium — which will host the opening ceremony — and another at the stadium hosting track and field was being addressed. -AFP