London - After months of negotiations, cycling’s governing body, the UCI, is nearing final agreement with Olympic organizers on their proposal to move cycling events at the 2020 Tokyo Games to a venue outside the capital to save money.
UCI president Brian Cookson told The Associated Press that the governing body stands ready to accept the change but is looking for certain “assurances” to “minimize” the impact of moving events so far from the host city.
“I’m optimistic we will have a solution within the next couple of weeks,” he said.
Track cycling, mountain biking and BMX were originally set to be held in Tokyo, but organizers decided to move the venue to Izu — more than two hours from the host city by train — as part of a series of cost-cutting changes.
The UCI opposed the move, saying it would diminish the Olympic experience for athletes and fans.
But, after protracted talks with Japanese organizers and the IOC, the cycling body has softened its position.
“We have a better understanding now of what’s possible and what’s not possible,” Cookson said. “We still want to have one or two assurances about the changes that are proposed, the impact that will have on the cycling events and the success of the cycling events.
“I don’t want to say too much more until we agree on the final details, but we will inevitably have to accept that there will be some changes to the venues and we are just making sure that we minimize any negative aspects of that,” he added in an interview on the sidelines of Olympic meetings in Washington last week.
Izu has an existing indoor velodrome for track cycling, but the venue may need upgrading and extra seating for the Olympics.
“It’s no secret that the big issue was moving the track events out to Izu,” Cookson said. “It’s a long way from central Tokyo to Izu and we need to make sure the impact of that is minimized if that’s the only available solution. The discussions are still around that.”
Cookson held talks recently with Tokyo organizers as well as IOC President Thomas Bach and IOC Vice President John Coates, who heads the coordination commission for the 2020 Games.
Cycling is the last major piece of Tokyo’s venue plan that still needs to be finalized. Previous deadlines on reaching a solution have come and gone.
The original venue plan for cycling had the events in the so-called Tokyo Bay Zone on the waterfront.
“I think we are being asked to accept the biggest changes of any sport on the program and we have a responsibility to make sure those changes don’t negatively impact on our sport too much,” Cookson said.
Tokyo’s original plan was for 28 of the venues to be located within an 8-km radius of the Olympic Village.
Several sports have already been moved to surrounding prefectures. Organizers say the moves have saved $1.7 billion, in line with the IOC’s “Olympic Agenda 2020” efforts to hold down costs by making maximum use of existing or temporary facilities.
Basketball will now take place at Saitama Super Arena. Fencing, taekwondo and wrestling have been moved to Makuhari Messe, a large convention center in Chiba Prefecture.