‘No concerns’ over Tokyo Olympic preparations: IOC
JAPAN (AFP) –Tokyo organisers have shown they will complete all their 2020 Olympic venues on schedule, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said Wednesday at the conclusion of a three-day visit.
Coordination commission chairman John Coates insisted he had “no concerns” over Tokyo’s preparations after local organisers recently unveiled their first new permanent venue.
“We received reports on the progress of venue construction and it’s just not an area that we have any concerns — I have any concerns — about,” he told reporters.
“You’re meeting all your deadlines of construction and I see no reason why, in a country so sophisticated, that this won’t continue to be the case.”
After bungling the rollout of the showpiece Olympic stadium two years ago, Japanese organisers have faced criticism but the successful opening last month of the Musashino Forest Sport Plaza, set to host badminton and modern pentathlon fencing, brought a welcome public relations score.
The original plans for the new national stadium were ripped up by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe two years ago because of public anger over its eye-watering $2 billion price tag.
IOC officials have since called on Tokyo to make efforts to further reduce the current $12 billion Games budget.
“We will continue to explore cost reduction opportunities,” promised Coates.
“The next version of the budget is being completed by the end of this year and we’ll see that when we get to Pyeongchang (for the Winter Olympics) in February.”
But Coates also added: “We are confident significant savings can be achieved. But we have to be aware that history shows us sometimes things can get out of hand, so we’ve got to be very careful.”
Meanwhile, the Australian denied any impropriety in his vice chair, Alex Gilady, travelling to Tokyo following recent allegations of sexual assault and harassment dating back to the 1990s during his time as a television executive in Israel.
“I’m aware of the allegations,” said Coates.
“I’m also aware that he strongly disputes those allegations and that his lawyers are disputing those allegations in the Israeli press.
“The IOC has been kept fully informed of all of the legalities that he’s pursuing at the moment. He’s entitled to due process … There’s no basis for him not to be here, that’s our position.”
Local organising president Yoshiro Mori stressed the importance of close cooperation between Tokyo and outlying municipalities, particularly areas devastated by the 2011 tsunami in north-eastern Japan and resulting nuclear crisis.
The 80-year-old former prime minister waxed lyrical about fine cheeses produced in the disaster-hit regions that he and the IOC members had sampled with Japanese rice wine the previous evening, before catching himself.
“Olympic preparations are moving along very smoothly,” he concluded. “Further cost reduction remains a priority but from next year the focus will be firmly on Tokyo so we have to solve any pending issues in the timeline agreed.”