National

Cost-scrutinizing panel looks to pare three 2020 Tokyo Olympics venues

Kyodo, Staff Report

The nation was facing further Olympic-related embarrassment Wednesday amid word that a panel reviewing costs for the 2020 Games will recommend scrapping the construction of three new venues.

The about-face involves facilities for volleyball, swimming and rowing and canoe sprint, a senior Tokyo Metropolitan Government official said. Alternative venues have been identified.

It would be the third time Tokyo has pared back construction plans after being faced with dizzying costs.

In 2014, officials scrapped construction plans for badminton, basketball and sailing, moving the events to facilities elsewhere.

And the nation suffered its biggest embarrassment of all when authorities tossed out blueprints for a new National Stadium and reopened bidding. A new plan has since been adopted, but the site in central Tokyo remains humiliatingly empty.

The panel will propose scrapping the three venues in an initial report on facilities that the metropolitan government will build. The panel was set up earlier this month by Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, who has pledged to take a flying kick at mounting costs and to achieve the high levels of transparency and accountability that taxpayers demand.

The proposed changes will be announced Thursday at a meeting of a task force for metropolitan government reform.

Details have emerged of why the three venues are deemed to be inappropriate. If the volleyball arena is built in the location currently identified its future reuse would be restricted to sports events and not events such as concerts.

The proposed swimming pool is also now thought to have far too much seating capacity. Moreover, it would be near the existing Tokyo Tatsumi International Swimming Center.

The panel believes the rowing and canoe sprint facility should be hosted somewhere outside Tokyo, given that sports associations have pointed to inadequate measures against wind and waves.

Changes need the approval of the IOC and the governing bodies of the sports involved.

The proposals could pave the way for the capital’s construction plans to be revised again. The Tokyo Olympic organizing committee plans to submit its budget plan to the International Olympic Committee by year’s end.

At the time of the Olympic bid, Tokyo’s original estimate for construction of new facilities was ¥153.8 billion ($1.5 billion). But the budget was later projected to expand nearly threefold to ¥458.4 billion, partly due to rising construction costs.

The budget plan was reviewed in 2014, when the cancellation of the basketball, badminton and sailing venues reduced the total to ¥224.1 billion.