Tokyo governor says now's the last chance to rein in Olympic costs

Wed Oct 12, 2016 6:11am EDT
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By Elaine Lies and Ami Miyazaki

TOKYO (Reuters) - Tokyo's governor said on Wednesday that now was the last chance to take steps to rein in soaring costs for the city's 2020 Olympics, projected to cost 3 trillion yen ($29 billion) - over four times higher than planned.

Gov. Yuriko Koike, who took office in August, ordered a review of Olympic expenses that last month recommended changing three venues to save money, a move criticized by both the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee and international sports officials.

In an interview with Reuters, Koike said the proposed changes - which include moving rowing and canoeing some 400 km (250 miles) north of Tokyo - remain on the table to ensure that the Games don't leave a legacy of debt.

"As the Games approach, costs will rise even more than now," she said. "As choices disappear, we will be asked to pay still more. Now is our last chance."

In its bid, Tokyo estimated costs at 734 billion yen ($7.24 billion) and said they would bring in 3 trillion yen of economic benefits as well as create 150,000 jobs.

It also said some 85 percent of the venues would be within 8 km (5 miles) of the athletes' village, a promise Koike said had become difficult to keep without burdening Tokyo, a city of 13 million with a similar budget to Sweden.

"Without limits, the analysis was that costs would rise close to 3 trillion yen," she said, declining to give a specific budget cap besides "whatever we can at this point".

For now, the city is zeroing in on three of the most expensive venues - for volleyball, swimming and rowing/canoeing - although Koike noted the budget review was ongoing.   Continued...

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike speaks in front of Tokyo 2020 Olympics emblem during an interview with Reuters at Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in Tokyo, Japan, October 12, 2016.    REUTERS/Toru Hanai