International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach and Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike agreed Tuesday to cooperate to reduce the cost of hosting the 2020 Olympics in their first meeting since Koike took office.
Sitting side by side only weeks after the freshly elected governor vowed to take an ax to various existing plans to pare spiraling costs, Bach assured Koike that “we are in this boat together.”
“We are going to cooperate very closely to make these Olympic Games the great success for Tokyo, the great success for Japan and for the Olympic Committee,” he said at the metropolitan government headquarters in Shinjuku Ward.
“We are always ready to cooperate and to look into the best and most feasible way to organize the Olympic Games.”
Bach, who came to Tokyo with Deputy IOC President John Coates, said close cooperation between stakeholders leads to holding a successful Olympics. He suggested setting up a new meeting as early as next month that includes all major stakeholders: the IOC, the Tokyo organizing committee and the metropolitan and central governments.
The meeting came after a metropolitan government panel last month recommended scrapping three proposed new venues to alleviate soaring costs that it said could reach as high as ¥3 trillion.
The venues on the chopping board include the Sea Forest Waterway to be constructed on Tokyo Bay for rowing and canoe sprint events.
Games organizers and the International Rowing Federation had already approved the planned facility, which was estimated to cost around ¥49.1 billion.
However, the panel recommended instead hosting the canoe and rowing events at the Naganuma course in Tome, Miyagi Prefecture, saying that refurbishing existing facilities there would cost ¥35.1 billion.
Meanwhile, it emerged earlier Tuesday that the IOC was considering replacing the costly venue in Tokyo Bay with an existing boat race facility in the South Korean city of Chungju.
The Chungju Tangeum Lake International Rowing Center features eight 2,000-meter racing lanes. The course was used in 2013 during the World Rowing Championships and the rowing competitions for the 2014 Asian Games.
Upon his arrival at Tokyo’s Haneda airport, Bach refused to comment on the South Korean venue idea.
At the metropolitan government headquarters, Bach said in front of Koike and reporters that he was aware of alternative recommendations, but only through media reports.
Koike vowed to accelerate work on the 2020 Games cost review and present the Tokyo government’s final decision on venues, as well as the panel’s final report, by the end of the month.
“I am strongly determined to do whatever needs to be done” to make the games sustainable, Koike said.
She expressed hope that cooperation between stakeholders and transparency in further proceedings will help persuade the residents of Tokyo that the games are worth their price tag.
“I am confident you will see a significant reduction in the cost compared to what we have seen so far from the press in the interim report,” Bach told reporters after the meeting.
Koike’s meeting with the IOC was held amid fresh allegations that the metropolitan government hid information about the cost of the planned projects to win the Olympic bid.
Metropolitan government officials who spoke to reporters earlier in the day rebuked allegations published in the Tuesday issue of the Mainichi Shimbun suggesting that Tokyo had claimed that construction of the rowing course would carry a price tag of only ¥9.8 billion.
The officials said they had made estimates separately for costs related to the competition and the facilities that will remain as legacy venues in response to the IOC’s demands.
Metropolitan government officials also said Tuesday they saw a possibility to reduce the cost of the Sea Forest Waterway to some ¥30 billion.
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