TOKYO (AP) - Olympic organizers agreed Tuesday to keep the rowing, canoe sprint and swimming venues at their planned sites in Tokyo for the 2020 Games, while postponing a decision until Christmas on a possible switch for volleyball.
Representatives of the International Olympic Committee, Tokyo organizers and Japan’s central and city governments have been discussing ways of reducing costs, including possibly moving three sports from planned new venues to existing ones.
The group was established in October after a Tokyo government panel said the Olympics cost could exceed 3 trillion yen ($27 billion) unless drastic cuts were made.
At Tuesday’s four-party talks, Tokyo organizing committee CEO Toshiro Muto proposed putting a 2 trillion yen ($18 billion) cap on total Olympic costs. A final budget has yet to be released.
IOC vice president John Coates, who heads the international body’s coordination commission for Tokyo, said the ceiling was too high.
“The IOC has not agreed to that amount of money,” Coates told reporters.
“We believe the cost can be significantly lower than that,” he added, citing “high figures” on the rent. “We can make some savings on those figures.”
The Tokyo panel had initially proposed moving the rowing and canoe sprint venue, currently planned at the Sea Forest in Tokyo, to Miyagi prefecture, 400 kilometers (250 miles) north of Tokyo, after its cost estimate soared to nearly 50 billion yen ($450 million). A new feasibility study shows the cost could come down to around 30 billion yen ($270 million).
“Considering the cost, location and various other factors, we have decided to hold (the rowing and canoeing) at the planned Sea Forest site,” Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike said.
Koike proposed using the Naganuma boat facility, which she had considered as an option, as a training facility ahead of the Tokyo Games. Koike had pushed for the Naganuma facility, which is in the area still recovering from the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, as a symbol of reconstruction, which she says gives significance to holding the Olympics in Japan in 2020.
A new swimming facility at its planned location, Tatsumi in eastern Tokyo, will have seating capacity reduced from 20,000 to 15,000, saving 14 billion yen ($125 million).
Koike said she still needs time to decide whether to move indoor volleyball to Yokohama Arena instead of building a new arena in Tokyo’s coastal Ariake district. She said the estimated 40 billion yen ($360 million) cost of the Tokyo venue is “still very high,” promising a decision by Christmas - a delay the group accepted.
Christophe Dubi, the IOC’s executive director of the Olympic Games, said a venue change would require a lot of work and would be “ambitious,” hinting the likelihood of volleyball also staying in Tokyo.
Cost estimates at a number of venues have surged since Tokyo was awarded the games in 2013, in part due to rising construction costs related to disaster reconstruction.
Koike repeatedly cited the IOC’s “Agenda 2020” reforms that seek sustainable Olympics and encourage the use of existing venues, not just in Japan but universally, saying her effort is fully in line with them. Concerns over costs have discouraged some cities from bidding.
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