The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is looking into hosting rowing and canoe/kayak sprint events for the 2020 Summer Games in South Korea if agreement cannot be reached to keep the venue for the races in Tokyo, Japanese media said on Tuesday.
Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike, who took office in August, ordered a review of Olympic expenses that last month recommended changing three venues to save money, a move criticized by the 2020 Organising Committee and international sports officials.
One of the changes would mean moving rowing and canoe/kayak sprint events some 400 km (250 miles) north of Tokyo to use existing facilities rather than building new ones in the capital, an effort to rein in costs projected to hit 3 trillion yen ($29.15 billion).
That figure is some four times the initial estimates made when Tokyo won the right to host Games in 2013.
Both the IOC and international rowing federation favor the original plan to keep the venue in Tokyo, while Koike last week told Reuters this was the last chance to take steps to rein in soaring costs for the Games.
If they failed to reach an agreement on the Tokyo site, the IOC was looking into hosting the events in the South Korean city of Chungju, where rowing events were held for the 2014 Asian Games, media reports said.
IOC President Thomas Bach meets Koike later on Tuesday, and the venue change is set to be high on the agenda. Tokyo 2020 officials were not immediately able to comment on the reports.
Reforms known as “Agenda 2020”, carried out under Bach with the aim of making the Olympics more sustainable, allow hosts to use facilities in other cities or even countries if it makes financial and practical sense.
Tokyo’s original bid pledged to keep most venues within 8 km of the athlete’s village in downtown Tokyo, but several have already been moved. Cycling will take place in Shizuoka prefecture, about 200 km (125 miles) west of Tokyo.
Tokyo organizers have been grappling with a series of blunders.
They were forced to scrap an initial design for the centerpiece National Stadium, site of the opening and closing ceremonies, because it was too expensive, and had to redesign the logo for the Games following accusations of plagiarism.
An Asahi poll found that 78 percent of respondents favored Koike’s proposal, which includes changing venues for volleyball and swimming as well as rowing and canoe/kayak sprints.
According to the same poll, 78 percent of respondents also said they felt Olympic preparations “were not proceeding smoothly.”