Olympics

IOC's John Coates pleased with Tokyo 2020's progress in managing issues such as traffic congestion

by Dan Orlowitz

Staff Writer

Tokyo 2020 Coordination Commission Chairman John Coates praised the local organizing committee on Thursday, citing unparalleled interest in ticket sales and progress toward managing issues regarding transportation and adverse weather conditions at the games.

Speaking at a joint news conference at the conclusion of the commission’s three-day visit to Tokyo, Coates’ remarks reflected the International Olympic Committee’s confidence in organizers just over 14 months ahead of the start of competition.

“We continue to be pleased with the excitement that’s being shown in this country for the games and the fact that five million (residents of Japan) have registered for the ticket draw,” Coates told a news conference at Tokyo 2020 headquarters, before citing the start of test events in June as a significant turning point for planning.

“We received a very good planning report on what they’re trying to achieve out of (the test events),” Coates added. “(These events are intended) to put yourselves under stress, not just in how you conduct these events but how you get athletes and fans to and from (the venues).”

One significant area of concern is the amount of traffic congestion during the Olympics, which Coates insisted would be fully understood following the busy slate of test events. An increase in highway tolls and the rationing of road space based on license plate numbers are among solutions that have been reported.

“I’m pleased that these things are being studied (as possible solutions) but there’s no decision to adopt them and that would be a very serious consideration,” said Coates, who also suggested that the Japanese government could take unilateral action. “The organizing committee isn’t planning road pricing, they want to see if the measures they’ve put in place for the test events work.”

Pushing back at reports earlier this month of complaints at the SportAccord conference in Gold Coast, Australia, regarding the look and presentation of the Olympics, Yoshiro Mori, president of Tokyo 2020, insisted that the conference was “very positive” and that organizers had taken the issues raised to heart.

“It’s always important that problems are raised,” said Mori. “We’d like to collaborate closely (with sporting federations) so that we can proceed with the test events as well as the Olympics themselves.”

The sentiment was echoed by Coates, who told reporters that “(the IOC) have certainly had assurances from the organizing committee that they acknowledge the importance of the look of the games (and that) they’ve taken note at the criticisms (regarding) sport presentation.”

Quizzed extensively on the development of the urban sports program, which will see skateboarding, sport climbing and 3×3 basketball join the list of established Olympic events, Mori described the new additions as a “potential template” for encouraging wider participation in the Olympics.

“It’s not the case that you need to go to school clubs to reach an elite level in sport,” Mori said. “If you want to do it, you compete and the world acknowledges that.

“The athletes compete and spectators are joining in and experiencing the sport. There’s an urge to do something, and that urge should be cultivated and nurtured.”

The pair were unanimous in their praise of Morinari Watanabe, who has been appointed as the head of a new IOC task force set to deliver Tokyo 2020’s boxing tournament following the suspension of AIBA, amateur boxing’s global governing body.

“It’s the most important thing for the athletes who have been training for this,” said Coates. “There’s much work to be done by Mr. Watanabe’s committee but we have no doubt that we can meet the expectations and dreams of those athletes.”

The coordination commission will next visit Tokyo this summer as part of events commemorating the one-year countdown to the start of the Summer Games on July 24, 2020.