TOKYO (Reuters) - International Olympic Committee (IOC) Vice President John Coates has urged Tokyo to consider moving more events to venues outside the capital, including one hundreds of kilometers away, in a bid to rein in spending for the 2020 Summer Games.
Rising labor and construction costs have forced Tokyo to rethink its plans for 10 venues it intended to build for the Games, contravening its promise that virtually all events would take place within 8 km (5 miles) of the Olympic village - one of the key points in its successful hosting bid.
In addition, the IOC on Tuesday made some of the biggest changes in decades in the way the Games are organized and run, issuing 40 recommendations and putting more of an emphasis on sustainability in an effort to ease the burden on host cities.
“(The IOC) has come out and specifically said that we should make the maximum use of existing facilities, and that, so far as I am concerned, overrides the 8km philosophy which we had as part of the bid,” Coates told a news conference in Tokyo on Wednesday after a two-day IOC review of Tokyo’s preparations.
“We have suggested to the organizing committee that for the preliminaries for basketball, just as for football, they may care to look at cities like Osaka that might have large venues.”
Tokyo has said from the start that some preliminary events for soccer would be held in parts of northeastern Japan affected by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in an effort to broaden the economic impact, but this is the first time holding events in other regions has been mentioned.
Osaka is some 400 km (255 miles) west of Tokyo.
Planners allotted $1.5 billion for venues in Tokyo’s Olympics bid but that estimate more than doubled late last year after recalculation.
Such budget worries mean plans for a new basketball arena may be dropped in favor of an existing venue about 25 km (17 miles) out of Tokyo, with badminton moving a similar distance outside the city.
Coates said he had visited both prospective sites and felt “very positive” about them.
No decision has yet been made but Tokyo hopes to have a fairly complete final plan pulled together by February 2015, officials said on Wednesday.
“What we’re trying to avoid above all is swelling expenses that become a huge burden for the people of Japan,” said Yoshiro Mori, president of the Tokyo organizing committee.
Editing by Peter Rutherford