IOC approves new events for 2020 Tokyo Games; stadium delays worry Bach; baseball may make comeback

Kyodo, Reuters, AP

The International Olympic Committee’s executive board has approved the venues for eight more sports on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics’ program, bringing the total to 26 confirmed locations for the 28 sports currently scheduled.

The latest approvals, made Monday, were for aquatics, badminton, fencing, rugby, sailing, taekwondo, triathlon and wrestling.

Venues have yet to be set for cycling and soccer.

The confirmations came roughly one year after Tokyo Gov. Yoichi Masuzoe announced a review in the face of projected cost overruns.

As a cost-saving measure, several events have been relocated to existing facilities outside of central Tokyo. Fencing, taekwondo and wrestling, originally set to be held at Tokyo Big Sight in the Odaiba waterfront area, will instead be staged at Makuhari Messe in Chiba Prefecture, while badminton and rugby sevens are headed for separate facilities in the western Tokyo suburb of Chofu.

Sailing events will take place at the Enoshima Yacht Harbor in Kanagawa Prefecture, the location used in the 1964 Olympics, and water polo will be moved to the Tatsumi International Swimming Center.

“These venue changes could result in savings of up to $700 million,” said Toshiro Muto, director of the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee.

Amid backstabbing, bickering and infighting over the burden of rising costs for building the new main stadium, IOC President Thomas Bach urged Tokyo to settle on plans as soon as possible.

“This is an issue for the national government to deal with,” said Bach. “We think this issue should be solved as soon as possible because Tokyo has so much positive news to spread that we do not want a discussion about the stadium to overshadow the excellent progress being made.

“It’s in everyone’s interest not to have this dragging on, we are confident that the national government will find a solution pretty soon.”

The stadium, besides serving as the centerpiece of the 2020 Summer Olympics, will be the venue for the 2019 Rugby World Cup. Last month, sports minister Hakubun Shimomura said the plan to give it a retractable roof should be ditched to save money.

He also said he wants around 35 percent of the seats in the 80,000-seat stadium to be temporary in another cost-cutting measure.

The new National Stadium will be built on the grounds of the old, now demolished, one, which was constructed for the 1964 Olympics.

Also on Monday, the IOC approved new events in snowboarding, Alpine skiing, speedskating and curling for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Big Air in snowboarding, mass start in speedskating, mixed doubles in curling, and a team skiing event were the additions. The snowboard parallel slalom event was dropped to make room for Big Air.

Baseball and softball are seen as possible favorites to be reinstated in time for the 2020 Summer Games.

The IOC is also still working on the program for the Tokyo Games. Under a new procedure, Japanese organizers can propose the addition of one or more sports.

Baseball and softball — both out of the Olympics since the 2008 Beijing Games — are considered the favorites because of their popularity in Japan. The final decision will be made in August 2016 on the eve of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.