July 28, 2014 1:00 pm JST

Ballooning costs force Tokyo to rethink 8km 2020 Olympic plan

TOKYO -- Preparations for the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games are hitting snags. While the International Olympic Committee held its inspection tour of designated competition venues, rising construction costs are forcing several plans to be thoroughly reviewed.     

     Tokyo Gov. Yoichi Masuzoe in June announced plans to revise several construction projects for Olympic facilities. Organizations involved with the sporting event have since been busy making the necessary adjustments.

     Shoken Narita, executive director at the Japan Canoe Federation, said Wednesday that the Japanese canoe body will host an inspection tour of a substitute site for the International Canoe Federation in late August. He has briefed senior officials from the international body about the change while in Hungary, where the world canoe championships for junior and under-23 competitors finished on July 20.

     The outline of the 2020 Games originally had the canoe slalom course at the Kasai Rinkai waterfront park in Tokyo's Edogawa Ward, but the metropolitan government is planning to change the location to a site it owns next to the park. "We are being asked by the International Canoe Federation to explain the change, but we ourselves are not convinced so we cannot provide a good answer," said Narita.

No more 8km radius

On Tuesday, Masuzoe announced the possibility of hosting several competitions in Chiba Prefecture, next to Tokyo. Sailing is one such event. The Tokyo office had initially planned to build a marina in Wakasu, Tokyo's Koto Ward, for the race, but it is considering scrapping the plan to host the event at the Inage yacht harbor, about 25km away from the Olympic Village, which will be built in the Harumi district of Tokyo's Chuo Ward.

     The change has puzzled the Japan Sailing Federation. "This is something we least expected," said an official from the organization. "The Tokyo Games made hosting games within an 8km radius of the Olympic Village a selling point."

     The new plans have been caused by ballooning costs. The metropolitan government had estimated it would cost 153.8 billion yen ($1.49 billion) to host the Games during its race with Madrid and Istanbul, but rising costs of construction materials and others may push the actual cost to more than double the original estimate. Most of the construction projects are expected to undergo some changes.

     A project to build a new national stadium also remains in limbo. The demolition work of the existing facility, which was initially scheduled to take place this month, has been delayed.

     A bid held in May to select a contractor for the project fell through as prices offered by bidders exceeded the proposed price. Another bidding was arranged on July 17, but a contract has been put on hold as the offered price was too low. Meanwhile, the central government has been demanding that the Tokyo office pay for portions of the construction costs, but discussions on this remain suspended.

     Manpower shortfalls are also feared. The organizing committee for the Tokyo Games, which is led by former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, currently has a staff of about 150 people. It hopes to raise the manpower to about 3,000 by 2020.

     It is only six years until Tokyo hosts the 2020 Olympic Games. A lot of work needs to be done to make the event a success.