TOKYO - The International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Wednesday sought to deflect attention from a row over Tokyo's planned National Stadium by praising organisers for keeping the 2020 Games budget in check.
John Coates, chairman of the IOC's Tokyo 2020 coordination commission, told reporters Tokyo had made "outstanding progress" since their last visit a year ago, pointing to cuts of US$1.7 billion (S$3 billion) to projected venue costs and the recent appointment of an Olympics minister.
"We are very pleased with the progress that's been made over the last year," he said after a two-day visit to Olympic sites. "The local organising committee has met all the key milestones. We have also witnessed strong support from both the national and Tokyo municipal governments.
"This support was underlined by the appointment of Minister Toshiaki Endo. He will have a key role to play in furthering cooperation between national and regional governments." Tokyo's budget compared favourably, Coates insisted, with previous Olympics.
"At the (2000) Sydney Olympics the cost of the new venues was US$3.5 billion," he said. "By the time we went to Athens the cost was US$14 billion and in London (in 2012) the cost was US$18 billion.
"The figure we're talking about here in terms of new venues - after the US$1.7 billion that's been saved - is US$2.8 billion. Even with the increased construction costs in this country, because of earthquake regulations etcetera, this is a remarkable figure. The progress to date has been outstanding."
Coates avoided wading into the public row between Tokyo's administration and the central government over funding for the new National Stadium, the centrepiece for the 2020 Olympics and the 2019 rugby World Cup, to be hosted by Japan.
The government's insistence that Tokyo pay 50 billion yen towards the cost of the 250 billion yen (US$2 billion) stadium triggered an angry response from Tokyo governor Yoichi Masuzoe, who has accused Sports Minister Hakubun Shimomura of strong-arm tactics.
Coates glossed over the row, praising Tokyo's revised venue plan while warning it would be necessary to monitor costs after the price of the National Stadium almost doubled since a futuristic design by Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid was chosen in 2012.
"We've moved from 33 percent existing venues to 50 percent existing venues," he said. "But no doubt there will be some issues in the cost of the overlay. We have urged the organising committee to work closely with our international federations to see if they can help contain (costs)."
Coates, who visited the Makuhari venue near Tokyo Disneyland to be used for taekwondo, fencing and wrestling, has yet to persuade cycling's world governing body to accept a move to Izu, 150 kilometres (93 miles) south of Tokyo, as a further cost-cutting measure.
"What led us to look to go out there was the original plan was for a temporary velodrome at a cost of US$180 million and that would be lost after the Games," he explained. "Talks are still continuing." Tokyo, which hosted Asia's first Olympics in 1964, beat Madrid and Istanbul in the race to stage the 2020 Games.