Japanese and International Olympic Committee (IOC) officials are closing in on a final venue plan for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, but a solution acceptable to all parties is still proving elusive in one sport - cycling.
Questioned while exiting today's IOC Executive Board meeting her, John Coates, chairman of the IOC’s Tokyo 2020 Coordination Commission, indicated that a new blueprint was “very close”, with just one sport now outstanding.
Asked if this was cycling, he replied: “Yes”.
His comments suggest that issues outlined in April by International Cycling Union (UCI) President Brian Cookson have still to be resolved.
Cookson described the proposed move of track, mountain biking and BMX venues around 150 kilometres away from Tokyo to the city of Izu as something they are “not happy” about, that could reduce the Olympic experience for athletes and cycling fans alike.
“What we’re being asked we think is the biggest change out of any sports Federation,” Cookson told insidethegames.
“We understand the economic situation, the need to cut costs and save money, and we will help where we can.
“But to move us out somewhere two hours from Tokyo I do not believe is the same as providing all athletes with the same Olympic experience.
“We want to look at alternative proposals.”
Cookson did concede however, that while he will work hard for the BMX and mountain bike events to return to the city centre, he is prepared to accept the velodrome switch, so long as the proposed venue undergoes renovation to substantially increase its capacity from current attendance levels of 1,500.
This appears to chime with a hint from the IOC’s Coates today that within the three disciplines in question, “we are very close on one of them”.
Further details may well emerge tomorrow, when Coates and the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee are due to report to the Executive Board.
The extensive revision of Tokyo 2020’s original venue plan has been driven by a shift in the Movement’s priorities such that compactness is far less of a cardinal virtue for Games planners than it once was, while sustainability is far more of one.
For example, plans to build a new Olympic sailing marina next to Tokyo Gate Bridge in Tokyo Bay have been abandoned, as part of ongoing changes to the overall Games blueprint that are intended to shave costs by well over $1 billion (£650 million/€890 million) .
It has been reported that the venue might be switched inland to an existing sailing centre not far from Wakasu; however, it is thought that this would require getting clearance to fly helicopters used in coverage of the sport from authorities at Tokyo’s Haneda airport.
Badminton now looks likely to go to Musashino, while a number of other sports, including taekwondo, fencing, wrestling and water polo may also be moved.
The vast majority of the estimated $1 billion of savings identified to date have come from scrapping the Youth Plaza project that was to have housed both badminton and basketball.
As previously announced, basketball is to be moved outside Tokyo to Saitama’s 37,000 Super Arena, the venue for the 2006 men’s World Championships.
Further net savings have come from the switch of some equestrian events from Dream Island to Baji Park, a venue from the city’s 1964 Olympics, the last time the Japanese capital hosted the Games, which is located about 50 minutes from central Tokyo.
A Tokyo 2020 spokesman told insidethegames today: “We are not specifying any venues at this stage.
“We need to respect the IOC Executive Board’s discussions and eventual decision.”
April 2015:Exclusive: Plans for new Tokyo 2020 sailing marina scrapped
April 2015: Exclusive: Moving events out of Tokyo could ruin Olympic experience for cyclists, fears Cookson
February 2015: Tokyo 2020 set to save $1 billion as venues moved
January 2015: Government study underway to reassess Tokyo 2020 legacy aims
January 2015: Exclusive: UCI heads to Tokyo for talks on cycling venues