International Olympic Committee Vice President John Coates on Friday praised Tokyo as “the most prepared city we’ve ever seen,” more than four years ahead of the 2020 Games. But Coates also scotched suggestions that the new National Stadium could be completed in time to host games at the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
“For a city that is four-and-a-bit years out from the games, I don’t think we’ve ever seen a city more prepared,” said Coates, as the governing body wrapped up its fifth project review on a two-day visit to Tokyo. “We couldn’t be happier.”
Tokyo’s preparations for the 2020 Games have been plagued by setbacks, with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe scrapping the design for the main showpiece stadium last summer amid ballooning costs, and organizers withdrawing the event logo amid accusations of plagiarism.
Abe’s decision to send the stadium back to the drawing board angered organizers of the Rugby World Cup, which Japan will host between Sept. 20 and Nov. 2 in 2019. The new stadium was originally scheduled to host the opening game and final, but has now been replaced by Nissan Stadium in Yokohama.
A new National Stadium design by architect Kengo Kuma was chosen to replace Zaha Hadid’s original blueprint in December, with Kuma himself suggesting that the venue could possibly be finished ahead of its projected November 2019 completion date.
But Coates poured cold water on that idea Friday, saying Rugby World Cup organizers could not wait any longer to finalize their plans.
Coates refused to be drawn on allegations made last week in a World Anti-Doping Agency report that a payment of several million dollars made by Tokyo to track and field’s governing body, the IAAF, helped sway the 2020 hosting vote in Tokyo’s favor.
The report alleges that former IAAF President Lamine Diack was prepared to sell his vote in exchange for IAAF sponsorship, which Tokyo has dismissed as “beyond understanding.” Coates said the IOC is still waiting to assess the evidence and did not discuss the matter with the Tokyo organizing committee.”I am aware of that report,” he said. “We did not discuss it with this organizing committee. The position is that the IOC has requested the transcript related to that commentary in the second report. It hasn’t been received. Nothing further has been received.”
Coates warned Tokyo that it can expect greater attention when the focus shifts eastward after the Aug. 5 to 21 Rio Olympics, but remains confident that the Japanese capital can handle it.
“That of course will also bring with it an increased level of interest and engagement from stakeholders and the media, both within Japan and outside,” he said.
“From what we have learned in the last two days, Tokyo 2020 is certainly prepared for this increase in attention and is prepared in all of its planning aspects.”
Tokyo 2020 organizers are currently formulating a plan for the legacy of the games due to be unveiled before the Rio Olympics and Coates is happy that the issue is receiving attention.
“We were very pleased that legacy is receiving high attention both within the organizing committee and, separately, (Tokyo) Gov. (Yoichi) Masuzoe,” said Coates. “He talked to us today about the legacy that he sees for the city.
“He talked about, with the prospect of the 2020 Games coming, the improvements that have happened in transportation within the city. I was very impressed by his attention and the fact that it’s so high in his priorities.”