Olympic chiefs have given Tokyo 2020 organizers a vote of confidence, despite a series of missteps that have mired the upcoming games in controversy.
Preparations for the Tokyo Games suffered a heavy blow in July when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe scrapped the design of the showpiece National Stadium over ballooning costs, followed closely by embarrassing accusations of plagiarism, which forced organizers to withdraw the event’s logo in September.
But International Olympic Committee Vice President John Coates told reporters Wednesday that the IOC was satisfied with the organizers’ efforts, as the governing body wrapped up its fourth review of preparations on a two-day visit.
“It’s clear to us from the two days we’ve had here that the close relationships between all the parties for the preparation of your games is going from strength to strength,” he said. “The foundations have been laid and they are very solid.”
Organizers are set to launch a public competition to find a new logo, after the previous emblem was pulled following allegations of plagiarism against designer Kenjiro Sano.
The contest will be open to all Japanese residents over the age of 18, including foreign nationals, and Coates praised Tokyo 2020 heads for their response to the scandal.
“We received confirmation of the announcement that was made recently of the process, which we are very impressed with,” he said. “The wide consultation impresses us and we are looking forward to the process as it unfolds.”
Coates also declared himself satisfied with Tokyo’s choice of extra sports to be considered for inclusion in the 2020 program.
The organizing committee last month recommended that surfing, karate, skateboarding, climbing and baseball/softball feature in the 2020 lineup, with the IOC set to take a decision next summer.
“Our reaction is that it’s a very good, balanced package,” said Coates. “We have traditional sports and then sports that are innovative, new and will appeal to the youth of the world.
“We have outdoor sports, we have indoor sports, and it’s that assessment of that package as a whole that is very important.”
Tokyo’s decision to exclude squash, bowling and wushu from its recommendations was met with dismay from the spurned federations, but Coates insisted that each sport was given a fair hearing.
“There were always going to be some that were not selected,” he said. “They had the opportunity twice to present. I’m sure Tokyo fully understands what those sports had to offer. I have no issue on transparency there.”
Coates also reassured world baseball chiefs that Japan’s recent gambling scandal, where Yomiuri Giants pitcher Satoshi Fukuda was found to have bet on games, would not affect the sport’s chances of inclusion.
“Certainly, illegal betting on games, the IOC has a zero-tolerance policy on that,” he said. “We make it quite clear that athletes are not allowed to bet on the games in any form.
“So far as this problem you’ve had, it’s one player, it’s not systemic. It’s not going to affect the decision that will be taken on baseball.”