TOKYO – The rowing and canoeing venue for the 2020 Olympics should either be moved to a site hundreds of miles away in northern Japan or downgraded to a temporary facility in Tokyo, a city government cost-cutting panel said Tuesday.
The recommendation came as officials of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Tokyo’s city government and other key parties gathered to review the cost of the games.
The panel has said the cost of the Tokyo Olympics could exceed $30 billion — four times the initial estimate — unless drastic cuts are made.
In a final report presented to Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, the panel said another option is to stick with the original plans for the Sea Forest venue in Tokyo Bay but to find ways of cutting the costs.
Last month, the panel came up with the option of moving rowing and canoeing to the Naganuma site in Tome city, 250 miles north of Tokyo. That came after the projected cost for the Sea Forest venue soared to nearly $480 million, seven times the initial estimate.
On Tuesday, the panel of academics and business consultants hand-picked by Koike said moving to Naganuma would be the most cost-efficient solution. Panel chairman Shinichi Ueyama said the Naganuma site is the only realistic out-of-town alternative to the Sea Forest venue, considering the time needed for additional construction and other preparations.
The relocated venue would require up to $190 million in construction costs to meet Olympic standards. Additional costs related to security, transportation, and other infrastructure could add up further. An earlier cost estimate for the Naganuma site was $330 million.
Downgrading the Sea Forest venue to a temporary facility could bring the estimated construction and running costs down to $430 million, the panel said. Alternatively, continuing with the permanent Sea Forest facility could cost about $670 million, even with further cost-cutting efforts, the report said.
Koike was to present all options in the report to the officials from the IOC, Japanese organizers and the central government during the four-party talks beginning Tuesday. The officials are expected to hold several rounds of talks before reaching a conclusion.
“We have to decide by the end of November at the latest, considering the time needed for revisions to the design and construction of the venues,” Koike told reporters. “We must make sure to get everything ready in time.”
The Naganuma site is part of the area still recovering from the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, which Koike says fits the theme of the region’s reconstruction from the disaster.
The IOC, as well as international and Japanese rowing and canoeing organizations have opposed moving the venue outside of Tokyo. IOC President Thomas Bach, who was in Tokyo last month, supported further cost-cutting measures, however.
The city panel also proposed moving two other sports — volleyball and swimming — from planned new venues to existing ones in Tokyo.
“There is a demand for good facilities, but who takes care of them after the event? We have to think carefully if they serve positive legacies,” Ueyama said.
Gaining tax payers’ understanding is crucial for a successful Olympics, he said, criticizing “secrecy” among Japanese organizers and bureaucracy.
Tokyo organizers have yet to formally disclose the total cost for the games and breakdowns. Ueyama urged Japanese organizers to follow the example of London, which disclosed cost estimates from five years out before the 2012 Games.