I have been trying to second guess what sports Tokyo Olympic is most likely to move under its revised Olympic venue plan. This may become clearer next month, possibly as soon as the next International Olympic Committee (IOC) Project Review meeting expected on February 4 and 5.
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What is driving this in part is the Brave New IOC World, ushered in by Agenda Tokyo, in which compactness is no longer such a cardinal virtue for Games planners and sustainability/cost containment much more of one. John Coates, chairman of the IOC’s Tokyo Olympic Coordination Commission, made this pretty plain in November, telling Reuters. The IOC has come out and specifically said that we should make the maximum use of existing facilities.
Tokyo Olympic, for its part, last month acknowledged it had been reviewing the original venue plan since June, telling me the review was being conducted from the perspectives of legacy, the impact of the Games on Tokyo residents and venue construction and maintenance costs.
We already know, for example, that a smaller design for the National Stadium that will be the Games’ centerpiece has been unveiled. We also know, as I reported at length last month, that the rowing and flat-water canoeing venue is up in the air. It has been suggested to me that as many as eight alternatives may now have been assessed without a satisfactory and cost-effective solution emerging.
If the waterway proposal is dropped, would it have a knock-on effect for the temporary equestrian cross-country and mountain bike courses planned for the land to either side of the channel? When I put this question to the International Cycling Union (UCI) this month, they told me that a staff member was traveling to Tokyo to discuss venue plans – and the different options being offered to us.
The International Equestrian Federation has told me that the eventing cross country for the Olympic Games will be held in Tokyo. This is no great surprise since it would clearly not be practical to move the cross country too far away from the other three-day event elements, which have been earmarked for the Dream Island Stadium. I would be far from astonished though to see switches for both horse riders and mountain bikers when the revised masterplan is revealed.
It is possible too that the more relaxed attitude to the compactness of the Games may open up fresh options for other cycle disciplines, with both the BMX course and the velodrome conceived as temporary venues costing a combined $74 million under the original blueprint. If Sea Forest is dropped from Tokyo 2020’s plans, I would be far from surprised to see this bite the dust too, simply on the assumption that there must be pre-existing sailing venues in the Tokyo region that could be pressed into service for the Olympics and Paralympics at a lower cost.
Since I understand that this is merely to a different position in the same parkland area, however, consequences for competitors (and overall costs) would appear to be limited. The biggest saving against price estimates contained in the bid book will come if, as expected, basketball and badminton are moved to pre-existing venues. The 37,000-seat Saitama Super Arena, one hour north of Tokyo, now looks red hot favorite to host men’s basketball.
Badminton, with its particularly high ceiling requirement, maybe more of a challenge to place, but one imagines, again, that suitable halls within reach of central Tokyo must exist, even if temporary seating for additional spectators needs to be provided.
It has, meanwhile, occurred to me to wonder – given that Tokyo Olympic is also coming under pressure to add new sports and disciplines to the Games programmed – whether organizers might be more inclined to find space for 3×3 basketball, with its clear youth and urban appeal, as a consequence of the flexibility that the sport appears to be showing with regard to the likely switch of its main venue.
We should also know more about how Tokyo Olympic will go about choosing any additional sports in two weeks’ time: the recently-constituted Additional Event Programmed Panel is expected to agree with the process at the February IOC Project Review meeting. The competition schedule set out in the bid book confines taekwondo to four days in the latter stages of the Games, making it feasible for the sport to share a venue with other indoor disciplines.
Well, I have received various indications along the way that little is thought likely to change with respect to archery, modern pentathlon, aquatics, and judo. I should emphasize, though, that I have no remotely hard information one way or the other (not yet) on either of these. Handball, table tennis, weightlifting, and boxing are all earmarked for existing venues, are all relatively low cost and, hence, I would think are all unlikely to be moved.