• Kyodo

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A proposal to move the rowing and canoe sprint events for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics to Miyagi Prefecture is likely to be shelved, sources close to the matter said Thursday.

Although the alternative to the original plan to build a new venue in Tokyo Bay was proposed by a Tokyo Metropolitan Government panel as a cost-cutting measure, related sports organizations have expressed concern that a separate athletes village would have to be set up outside of Tokyo.

Some have also pointed out that canceling the plan to build the Sea Forest Waterway on the fringes of Tokyo Bay would result in incurring indemnity payments.

The panel, appointed by Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike to review the snowballing costs of the 2020 Games, has recommended considering the Naganuma rowing course in the city of Tome in the prefecture, which was one of the hardest hit by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

It has also presented two options in case the Sea Forest Waterway were to be built as per the original scheme — making it a permanent facility, in which case the maintenance cost would be ¥32.8 billion, or a temporary facility whose maintenance cost would be ¥29.8 billion.

The issue will be discussed by working-level representatives of the four-party group involving the International Olympic Committee, 2020 Games organizers and the central Japanese and Tokyo metropolitan governments, who may meet on Sunday.

The topic will then be taken up at a top-level meeting of the four-way group scheduled next Tuesday.

Officials of the Miyagi Prefectural Government, who have been pushing for the rowing and canoe sprint events to be held at Naganuma, expressed disappointment over the development.

Survivors of the quake and tsunami five years ago, however, had mixed feelings as efforts to rebuild from the disasters are still ongoing.

“I would have welcomed it if they would have brought the events here, but the prefectural government’s idea to cover part of the costs with funds for reconstruction is outrageous. I’m glad it will be shelved,” said Choki Abe, a 79-year-old living at a temporary housing complex in Tome that was raised as a candidate site for the athletes village.

Koike’s cost review panel has also proposed other options for the swimming and volleyball venues, including using existing facilities rather than building new ones.

For volleyball, it made two suggestions — using the existing Yokohama Arena or the original plan of constructing Ariake Arena in the Tokyo Bay zone.

The sport’s governing bodies have pointed out that there is not enough space at Yokohama Arena and its vicinity for organizing the competitions.

For a new aquatics center for swimming in Tokyo’s Koto Ward, the Koike team is recommending a 20,000-seat facility under the original plan or a 15,000-seat venue to be further reduced after the 2020 Games. The latter idea is likely to be called off due to higher expenses.

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