olympics

Soaring costs threaten Olympics’ future, IOC warns

Governing body praises Japan for slashing costs for 2020 Games

AFP
15:41 June 28, 2017
Tokyo

Tokyo: The International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Wednesday praised Japanese organisers for slashing costs for the 2020 Tokyo Games, but warned that soaring Olympic budgets could see future bids dry up.

Tokyo 2020 coordination commission chairman John Coates noted that significant progress had been made since the IOC ordered local organisers to keep costs below $20 billion (Dh73.4 billion) but added that more needed to be done.

“Apart from the fact you’ve got the budget down now to around $13 billion, the emphasis that you are continuing to work together to further reduce costs and optimise resources is not only important to you and taxpayers, but also very important to the IOC,” Coates said at the start of a three-day visit to Tokyo.

“We know you can pay for the Games in a city as strong financially as yours and with the support you get from the government, private sector and sponsorship,” added Coates.

“But it is important to us that when the costs of the Games in the final analysis become public that they’re going to attract [future] candidate cities, rather than scare them off.”

The IOC pledged earlier this year to make changes to the Olympic bidding process following the withdrawal of Budapest from the race to host the 2024 Games, leaving just Paris and Los Angeles in the running.

“If we appear to be pushing very hard on saving money, it’s for our own future that we are doing it — just as much as you want to do it for your taxpayers,” Coates said.

Rome, Hamburg and Boston all previously pulled the plug on their bids for the 2024 Summer Games, citing costs.

Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike last year ordered a review of the budget that recommended revised plans for three venues to reduce costs projected to balloon to more than $25 billion — four times the initial estimates when Tokyo won the 2020 hosting rights.

As Tokyo organisers battle to rein in costs, Coates added that a progress report on the troubled 2020 Olympic stadium would be high on the agenda during the coordination commission’s visit.

Japanese officials bungled the rollout of the showpiece venue in 2015 when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe tore up the blueprints for Tokyo’s new national stadium over its eye-watering $2-billion price tag.

Coates also said the commission hopes to decide on the 2020 Olympic role of Fukushima, which was hit by a nuclear meltdown following the deadly 2011 tsunami that devastated north-east Japan.

“We want to finalise how many games in baseball and softball will be held in Fukushima,” he said.

“We really want to honour the commitment that president [Thomas] Bach made to Prime Minister Abe to take events to Fukushima as part of the [region’s] recovery and rehabilitation. I think it’s critical we do that.”