Monday, 03 July 2017 16:24

Michael Pavitt: IOC focus on cost cutting as Tokyo 2020 President drives for details

Having been given something of a dressing down over their rapidly increasing budget in December, Tokyo 2020 could have been forgiven for trying to butter-up International Olympic Committee (IOC) Coordination Commission chairman John Coates as the opening remarks of their latest visit took place earlier this week.

Coates had claimed his was relieved to be back in the Japanese capital following his re-election as the Australian Olympic Committee President, after a gruelling battle. A mix of a joke and an honest assessment. Tokyo officials followed suit in expressing their delight, from Governor Yuriko Koike to Tokyo 2020 President Yoshirō Mori. The latter claimed he had spent the last couple of months praying for his daughter’s health and Mr Coates re-election.

You could have been forgiven for thinking Tokyo 2020 had forgotten to do their homework, before the teacher had arrived.

However, with a budget having been cut to ¥1.6 trillion (£11 billion/$13.6 billion/€13.1 billion) earlier this year and the division of responsibilities established between organisers, the Tokyo Metropolitan and National Governments, they have settled some of the key issues outlined in December. Granted, the budget is still far higher than the one envisaged when Tokyo bid for the Games.

The rather jovial nature of the opening remarks was underlined by President Mori commenting that he had been “surprised” by the IOC Executive Board’s approval of the number of additional events for the Games. As the week progressed it became apparent that surprise was something of an understatement. The impression, you felt, was that Mori had seen the list of approved events and thought: “How many?”

A total of 15 events were ultimately approved last month, including mixed relay events in athletics, swimming and triathlon, along with mixed team competitions in judo, table tennis and archery. Male and female BMX freestyle park and 3x3 basketball were also been confirmed as two new disciplines on the programme, while fencing will also receive two additional team events.

The process to decide new sports last year appeared to be a joint effort by Tokyo 2020 and the IOC, with the organisers seen by many to have been given baseball/softball and karate, while accepting surfing, skateboarding and sport climbing. For the new events, the IOC have certainly been the drivers.

Ultimately the process has been a strong one, with several additions having made a great deal of sense and boosting gender equality. The IOC have also done well in stressing that the new sports would not require any further venues, unless you include a temporary one for the 3x3 basketball and BMX freestyle. A reduction in athlete numbers has also been highlighted.

They might need to continue pressing home this message, with the people having continued to point out the contradiction between the IOC telling Tokyo 2020 to cut costs and then continuing to add to the programme. I agree with that assessment following the addition of the new sports last year, but the additional events should not place much strain on the organisers.

It should be noted that the IOC’s public comments on cost cutting at Tokyo 2020 has been impressive. Coates rejection of a near $20 billion (£15.4 million/€17.5 million) budget figure in December set the tone and the Australian repeatedly stressed further savings can be made throughout the latest Coordination Commission. He delivered a relatively blunt assessment that the IOC had failed to explain the costs associated with the Games effectively enough in the past.

“The IOC and organising committees have not in recent times explained the difference in operational costs, from new venue construction and then other infrastructure, security and transportation costs,” Coates reflected.

“It just has not been explained and operationally the cost of the Games should break even. You look at the money the IOC is bringing to the table, you look at the revenue the organising committee can take from national sponsors and ticket sales.

“We haven’t explained how operationally the Games are not going to be a burden on the city. For the venues, you are building them for the benefit of the people for say 50 years. You can charge that to just 16 days of competition, but over longer periods. That has not been explained well enough.”

The positive news for the IOC with Tokyo 2020 is that the organisation of the Games appears to be on track.

The Commission visited the construction sites at the Athletes Village and National Stadium and appeared content everything is on track. As one Tokyo official put it to me, now the division of responsibilities between Tokyo 2020, the Metropolitan and national Governments has been agreed, things will happen very quickly.

In this sense, the IOC can afford to focus their efforts on bringing the costs down and not spend time worry about racing against time to make sure venues are ready, cough, Rio 2016.

While Coates appeared very content with progress, Tokyo 2020 President Mori provided the source of intrigue going forwards. The 79-year-old clearly had two key areas of frustration.

The first was that the location and requirements surrounding the urban cluster for the Games has not yet been resolved.

It appears the proposed Aomi urban sports venue will host the skateboarding and sport climbing competitions, but the location of 3x3 basketball and BMX freestyle still seems uncertain. The requirements, in terms of temporary stands for spectators and general competition overlay, seemed to be bothering Mori.

His main gripe appears to be with Tokyo Governor Koike. Having swept into the office with the promise of dramatically cutting the budget and making a host of changes to venues, she has seemingly ended up backing down and going with the existing plans. Her delay in deciding on the proposed demolition of the famous Tsukiji fish market has clearly annoyed Mori.

The delay has prevented the start of construction of ring road two. The road will connect Olympic Park and Athletes' Village with the IOC hotels, while it would have a designated Games lane. While Koike has seemingly appeared to give approval for it to be moved last month, Mori called for detailed plans to be presented at the next Coordination Commission to make this commitment clear.

Having effectively set a deadline of December, when the next visit will take place, it will be intriguing to see the progress made. Certainly, the IOC must be content the Tokyo 2020 President is setting these deadlines and seeking to speed up preparations with nearly three years to go.

The road, progress on urban venues and an updated second budget look set to be the main topics when the Commission reconvenes in the Japanese capital later this year.

OK, more links:

READ: British athletics faces crucial world championships after trials no-shows | Sean Ingle

READ: Former Greek Olympic Committee President Minos Kyriakou dies

READ: Olympian Martyn Rooney and other athletics stars caught up in M6 gridlock after eight-vehicle crash

READ: Britain's Gemili in danger of missing World Athletics Championships

READ: Laura Weightman among winners on day of thrills and spills at British trials

READ: Germaine Mason: Team GB trials crowd in poignant tribute to Olympic high jump hero, killed in motorbike crash aged 34 in Jamaica

READ: Bolt totally envisages Wayde's world

READ: Thompson wins, advantage Kendricks in pole vault

READ: Track & field rules changes include school issued uniforms

READ: McLeod beaten on night of upsets in Paris

READ: Mike Mason, Shawn Barber try to regain form at Diamond League Paris

READ: Confident McLeod, Thompson Ready For Paris Tests

READ: For track and field champions, the search for Olympic gold starts at SoCal's Mt. SAC

READ: Who is the world’s most marketable Olympian?

READ: Why did USATF make the Olympic Trials announcement Wednesday?

READ: Dina Asher-Smith says her London dream remains alive despite sixth place finish

READ: Andrew Pozzi sets new personal best to claim second place in 110m hurdles

READ: Disappointing Ohuruogu fails to make world championships

READ: Meeting Paris men/women results

READ: British Athletics Team Trials: Steve Cram picks his six events to watch

READ: Renaud Lavillenie among athletes looking to perform in Paris

READ: Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake aims to help fans forget British trial no-shows

READ: Performance director says Scottish athletics hitting new heights

READ: Gothenburg bid boss not surprised by FBI interest in Eugene 2021

READ: Another gold for SA juniors

READ: Lots of work ahead of London double - Wayde

READ: Bruintjies, Alkana gear up for Diamond League

READ: Wayde van Niekerk will be the greatest athlete South Africa's ever produced

READ: Team Kenya for the Worlds unveiled

READ: Van Niekerk sets new world record for little-run 300m