Private country club must equalize membership rules to host Olympic golf competition: IOC

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Staff Writer

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Kasumigaseki Country Club will be stripped of hosting the Tokyo 2020 Olympic golf tournament if it does not allow women to become full members, the International Olympic Committee warned on Thursday.

“At some point there has to be a cut-off,” IOC Vice President John Coates told reporters in Tokyo. “Image-wise, our position is clear: We will only go to a club that has nondiscrimination.”

Kasumigaseki, the private club in Saitama Prefecture chosen to host both the men’s and women’s golf competitions at the Tokyo Games, does not allow women to become full members or play on Sundays.

The club has come under intense pressure to change its rules since Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike drew attention to them earlier this year, but board members have yet to decide whether to undergo reform despite meeting last month to discuss the issue.

Coates on Thursday warned Kasumigaseki that failure to do so will result in the competition being moved elsewhere, but the Australian is hopeful the matter will be resolved by summer.

“My understanding is that there have been more discussions with the club,” said Coates. “It’s heading in the right direction for them to have a nondiscriminatory membership procedure. It would appear that we should be able to have this result by the end of June.”

Coates declared himself “happy with the progress that has been made since we were last here,” following the IOC’s latest review of preparations for Tokyo 2020, and insisted that the organizing committee and the world governing body are both on the same page.

“We were very pleased with the preparedness to engage with us and accept our experience,” said Coates. “There is no push-back at all here, and I think that’s very pleasing for us where we sit. We have the same common goal, and that’s delivering the best possible games for the people of Japan and the people of the world.”

Coates also praised Japan’s hosting of the recently concluded Asian Winter Games, which were held in Sapporo from Feb. 19 to 26.

“That was an indication of how capable Japanese organizing committees can be, of relevance for Tokyo,” he said. “There were a number of your volunteers who were working there. It just highlighted your capability to host big events.”

Tokyo 2020 President Yoshiro Mori reiterated his desire to host part of the games’ baseball competition in areas affected by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, and hinted that the Japanese national team could play its first game in Fukushima Prefecture.

“One preliminary game is possible,” said Mori. “The first game of the Japanese team could be held in Fukushima. That was the hope that we had, but of course the details will have to be worked out going forward.”

The proposal to host baseball games in Fukushima Prefecture is just one of a series of alterations to the original 2020 Games plan, with several events now set to be held outside Tokyo.

The games’ expansion outside the capital has left organizers unsure how to divide costs among the various local authorities, but Coates believes that the matter is not a concern for the IOC.

“We have gone outside of Tokyo,” he said. “We have made some considerable savings as a result of that — $2.2 billion for the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.

“That has given rise, though, to how much should be contributed by the prefectures to which sports are being taken. Where we sit, that’s a matter that the organizing committee must discuss with both TMG and the national government and with the prefectures.”