Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike on Saturday visited a boat race course in Miyagi Prefecture, a facility emerging as an alternative venue for the rowing and canoe sprint events at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic games.
“Based on this visit, I will start considering venues,” Koike told reporters after inspecting facilities at the Naganuma rowing course in the city of Tome, more than 400 kilometers from Tokyo. Miyagi is one of the prefectures in northeastern Japan hit hardest by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
Games organizers and the International Rowing Federation had already approved the Sea Forest Waterway venue to be constructed on Tokyo Bay, but a metropolitan government cost review panel recommended last month that plan be reconsidered.
The Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic organizing committee has raised concerns that costs could top ¥35.1 billion ($337 million) even if the rowing and canoe sprint events were held at the Naganuma rowing course. But Miyagi Prefecture Gov. Yoshihiro Murai argued Saturday in a television appearance that the overall cost is “estimated at around ¥15 to ¥20 billion.”
On the TV program, Murai also emphasized that most of the costs will be for “permanent facilities” after the Olympic Games, and that the prefectural government would shoulder the cost to remove temporary housing.
Last Wednesday, Murai visited Koike in Tokyo to convey his wish to hold the rowing and canoe events in Miyagi to show the world the recovery Japan has made since the 2011 quake and tsunami disaster.
Koike had told Murai that the Naganuma boat course was an option and she would “make a comprehensive decision” after visiting the site.
The organizing committee, however, has questioned the feasibility of holding those events at the Miyagi site, raising what they said are “nine problems,” including transportation, infrastructure and costs.
Saitama Gov. Kiyoshi Ueda has also said his prefecture is ready to host the rowing and canoe sprint events at Saiko Doman Green Park in the city of Toda.