IOC sees positive strides in Tokyo's preparations for 2020 games

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 14, 2015 6:25 AM

By Elaine Lies

TOKYO (Reuters) - The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said on Wednesday it saw positive strides in Tokyo's preparations for the 2020 Games despite embarrassments such as scrapping its logo and plans for its new Olympic Stadium due to anger over ballooning costs.

The mishaps, which have left a gaping hole in the ground where Japan's former National Stadium stood and a badly delayed building schedule, have also blackened Japan's reputation as a place that can get things done -- a reputation that helped it win the hosting rights for the Summer Games two years ago over Madrid and Istanbul.

But IOC Vice President John Coates told a news conference after the governing body's fourth review of Tokyo's preparations that all was going well and they saw positive strides.

"It's clear to us that in the two days we've had here that the close relationship between all of the parties for the preparation of your games is going from strength to strength," he added.

He said they were particularly pleased with the five sports Tokyo had chosen to present to the IOC for inclusion in the 2020 Summer games, saying that they emphasized a broad range of interests including those designed to appeal to young people.

Asked about the Olympics logo, which was scrapped after plagiarism accusations arose, he said that it had been discussed and he was "impressed" by the openness of the new selection process.

Questions about the 2020 logo arose immediately after its July unveiling when a Belgian designer said it was too similar to his logo for a theater, demanding its use be halted and subsequently filing a lawsuit in local court.

Designer Kenjiro Sano denied copying the logo, but the ensuing uproar caused him to eventually ask that it be withdrawn since its reputation was too damaged for use. A new emblem will be chosen in open competition.

The decision came less than a month after Tokyo scrapped its plans for the new National Stadium, set to be the centerpiece of the Games, as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sought to soothe public anger over costs that had more than doubled from original estimates.

The decision prompted concern from the IOC, which said it would oversee the new tender, but Coates said he had been assured it would be completed by January 2020, as the IOC had requested, leaving time for tests and other preparations.

A second competition for the stadium design is set to be held later this year, with construction to start early next year and completion slated for early in 2020, a year later than originally planned. Zaha Hadid Architects, which came up with the first design, has opted not to take part again.

Tokyo has also reneged on a pledge to keep most venues within eight kilometers of the Olympic Village in order to cut costs. Some are so far away athletes will have to stay in separate quarters.

But the city got some encouragement from London mayor Boris Johnson, whose city hosted the 2012 Games and who said at a news conference that London had confidence that Tokyo will be able to pull it off.

"Large parts of the media, large parts of the media will remain resolutely skeptical, if not hostile..." he said in a later speech.

"Suddenly, as the event itself draws near, their mood will change and it will be as if the sun has come out."

(Additional reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; editing by Sudipto Ganguly)