RIO DE JANEIRO – The venues for three Olympic events will be changed for the 2020 Tokyo Games as part of efforts by the International Olympic Committee to streamline future tournaments and rein in vast budgets, the director of Tokyo’s organizing committee said.
“It is a year since we established the organizing committee, and we are putting together our vision; we have a basic plan,” Tokyo organizing committee director Toshiro Muto told reporters Friday on the sidelines of the IOC’s latest assessment of preparations for the 2016 Summer Olympics, South America’s first, in Rio de Janeiro.
Muto said the changes to the basketball, canoe slalom and equestrian events have already been agreed on and are awaiting IOC approval. Last year, the IOC Executive Board revealed Olympic Agenda 2020, a reform framework for greater sustainability.
Rio is racing to vastly improve its infrastructure for 2016 amid concerns the organizers will fail to fulfill a pledge to reduce pollution by four-fifths in Guanabara Bay, which will host the sailing events.
In addition, concerns have emerged about whether the city will be able to deliver on its commitment to seriously upgrade transportation links at a time when some of Brazil’s largest construction companies are embroiled in a kickbacks scandal involving inflated contracts with state-owned oil firm Petrobras.
In Tokyo, where the organizers submitted their Games Foundation Plan to the IOC earlier Friday, infrastructure is much more advanced. The capital is preparing to become the first Asian city to stage a second Summer Games, having hosted them in 1964.
Like Rio, Tokyo has not escaped controversy on its budget. In recent months, public protests have been staged against plans to demolish the National Stadium in Shinjuku Ward’s Kasumigaoka area and replace it with the huge 80,000-seat stadium designed by British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid. Campaigners say the stadium, standing some 70 meters high and initially set to cost around $3 billion (¥300 billion) before a redesign was submitted costing around 40 percent less, is simply too big for its placid location.
Muto said complaints about the stadium’s size and cost need to be directed at politicians.
“That is an issue for the government. We will just operate the stadium,” he said.
“The issue was not discussed today” on the sidelines of the IOC Executive Board meeting that ended Saturday, Muto added.
Demolition of the original stadium has been delayed twice after bids for the job came in too low.
The Tokyo team initially pledged to locate some 80 percent of the venues within 8 km of the Olympic Village, but with organizers looking to lop around $1.7 billion (¥170 billion) off the sporting extravaganza’s overall budget, some events are set to move farther afield to existing facilities.
Muto said basketball is likely to be moved to Saitama Super Arena, about an hour away from the Olympic Village.
Rising labor and construction costs have prompted Tokyo to rein in plans to build new sites for the canoe slalom and equestrian events.
Tokyo also wants to see other events added to the program, including softball and baseball, and Muto said the organizers had established a programming panel to further that agenda.
Brazilian Olympic Committee President Carlos Nuzman meanwhile told reporters that there has been “no decision as yet” on whether next year’s Olympics will have one flame or two, saying the question of having one flame at the opening ceremony at the Maracana Stadium and another at the venue hosting track and field is being addressed.