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Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Official defends plan to move venues

Associated Press

TOKYO -- Tokyo Governor Yoichi Masuzoe on Wednesday defended his call to cut costs by relocating some venues for the 2020 Olympics, even if it threatens plans for having almost all the facilities close to the athletes village.

Tokyo won the right to host the 2020 Olympics last year with a promise to deliver a compact games, with 28 of the proposed 33 competition venues within five miles of the village.

But Japanese Olympic organizers said they are reviewing their venue plans because of concerns over rising costs. Japan has already informed the International Olympic Committee about its intention to review and revise its plans.

According to reports in the Japanese media, organizers are considering moving some venues to locations as far away as Saitama, which is part of the Greater Tokyo Area but an hour away from central Tokyo.

"Even if a venue is 100 kilometers (60 miles) away you can still achieve a maximum travel time of 30 minutes if the transportation system if appropriate," Masuzoe told a news conference at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan.

Masuzoe said the relocation of some venues outside that radius will not increase travel times between the facilities if good transportation systems are in place.

Insisting that he also has a responsibility to Tokyo taxpayers, Masuzoe said the games need to be compact in terms of cost and not just geography -- a principle the IOC agrees with.

"Expenses can be 30, 40, 50 times more than the original plan," Masuzoe said. "How can I persuade the taxpayers to pay this kind of money? We are working with the IOC and the various sports federations to make the games sustainable. Legacy is very important. If you abolish everything after the games who can accept that?"

The IOC, under new President Thomas Bach, is currently looking at ways of reducing the costs of hosting future Olympics. Several cities declined to bid or have dropped out of the race for the 2022 Winter Games because of financial concerns.

Masuzoe did not refer specifically to plans to replace Tokyo's National Stadium with a colossal, 80,000-seat facility, the centerpiece of the city's Olympic bid. The proposed new stadium has caused protests over its size, cost and design.