Tokyo governor Yoichi Masuzoe has defended a controversial review of venues for the 2020 Olympics, a move critics say would break the city’s original pledge for a compact and environmentally friendly Games.
The Japanese capital, which will be hosting its second Olympics, has promised a compact Games with 85% of the venues located within an 8km radius.
“Not only distances, but the budget should be compact too,” Masuzoe told reporters at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo on Wednesday. “This should not be forgotten.”
Masuzoe told the metropolitan assembly and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) last month that his administration would have to review the plans, largely because of rising construction and labour costs.
Seaside bird park
Under the review, basketball and badminton may be staged at existing facilities well outside the 8km ring instead of at facilities to be built at a waterfront area near the Olympic village. Another bone of contention is the construction of the canoe slalom course at a seaside park that is home to rare wild birds, sparking objections from a national group of bird lovers.
The IOC warned Tokyo after a recent site inspection that any plans to switch venues will first have to be approved by the relevant sport’s governing body.
But Masuzoe said: “If you have the transportation system, with which we can bring athletes at 100km an hour, you can bring them in half an hour. No problem at all. We have close consultation with the national federation, the international federation, the IOC. We are working together to make the 2020 Games wonderful and sustainable.”
Tokyo officials estimate the total cost of venues at around 150-billion yen (R15.7-billion), including the construction of 10 new facilities, although some assembly members fear the price could more than double. “Even if it doubles or triples – 10 times more, 20 times more, 50 times more, I am not exaggerating. Can you persuade taxpayers to pay that kind of money?” asked Masuzoe. “Sustainability is a very key word.”
Tokyo, which staged Asia’s first Olympics in 1964, beat Madrid and Istanbul for the rights to host the 2020 Games in an IOC vote in September last year. – Sapa