Sun, Nov 26, 2017 - Page 11 News List

Relief for Tokyo as first new Olympic venue opens

AFP, TOKYO

Tokyo yesterday opened its first new permanent venue for the 2020 Olympics in a welcome public relations boost for the organizers after a series of setbacks.

The opening of the Musashino Forest Sport Plaza, which is to host badminton and modern pentathlon fencing, offers Tokyo organizers some respite after a disastrous rollout of plans for the 2020 Olympic stadium.

“We are making real progress in our preparations,” Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike told reporters at the venue’s opening ceremony. “We ... intend to build on this momentum and continue the hard work.”

The venue, which is to also host wheelchair basketball at the 2020 Paralympics, is the first of eight permanent venues to be completed.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe two years ago tore up the blueprints for the new national stadium amid public anger over its US$2 billion price tag in an embarrassing setback.

That decision deprived next year’s Rugby World Cup of its main venue.

Designs for the official Games mascot then had to be scrapped following accusations of plagiarism.

There was more bad news last month when Olympic organizers said that prolonged summer rain had brought high levels of bacteria to a venue earmarked for triathlon and open-water swimming.

While Tokyo has taken successful measures to slash costs, the International Olympic Committee has urged organizers to try to further reduce its US$12 billion budget, including finding ways to cut services at the athletes’ village.

Tokyo is to have 39 venues for the Olympics and Paralympics, including 23 existing sites and eight temporary facilities, in addition to the eight new permanent ones.

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