Olympics: Three venue changes for Tokyo 2020 Games

Three venue changes are planned for the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020, organizers said Friday as part of International Olympic Committee-led efforts to streamline future tournaments and rein in budgets.

"It is a year since we established the organizing committee and we are putting together our vision -- we have a basic plan," Games CEO Toshiro Mutoh told reporters on the sidelines of the IOC's latest assessment of preparations for next year's Games, South America's first, in Rio.

Mutoh said changes had been agreed and were awaiting IOC approval for basketball, canoe slalom and equestrian events after the IOC's Executive Board last year laid out its Olympic Agenda 2020 reform framework for greater sustainability.

Rio is racing to deliver vastly improved infrastructure for 2016 amid concerns the hosts will not manage to fulfil a pledge to reduce by four fifths pollution in Guanabara Bay, which will host sailing events.

Further concerns are delivery of hugely upgraded transport links at a time when some of Brazil's largest construction companies are embroiled in a kickbacks scandal involving inflated contracts with state-owned oil firm Petrobras, raising questions as to those firms' abilities to deliver on Olympic commitments.

In Tokyo, where organizers earlier Friday submitted their Games Foundation Plan to the IOC, general infrastructure is much further advanced as Japan's capital prepares to become the first Asian city to stage a second Summer Games having hosted in 1964.

Like Rio, Tokyo has not escaped controversy on budgets.

Tokyo has seen public protests in recent months over plans to demolish the National Stadium and replace it with a huge 80,000-seater stadium designed by British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid.

Campaigners say the new design, standing some 70 meters high and initially set to cost in the region of $3 billion before a revised plan was submitted costing around 40 percent less, is simply too big for its local environment.

Mutoh said the stadium's size and cost needed to be directed to politicians.

"That is an issue for the government. We will just operate the stadium.

"The issue was not discussed today" in talks on the sidelines of the IOC's executive Board meeting ending Saturday, Mutoh added.

Demolition of the existing stadium has twice been put back after bids for the job came in too low.

The Tokyo team initially pledged to have some 80 percent of venues within eight kilometers (five miles) radius of the Olympic Village, but with organizers looking to lop around $1.7 billion of the Games overall budget some events are now set to move further afield to existing facilities.

Mutoh said the basketball was likely to move to Saitama's 37,000 arena Super Arena an hour away.

Rising labor and construction costs have also prompted Japan to rein back plans for new sites for canoe slalom and equestrian events.

Tokyo still wants to see new events on the program including softball and baseball and Mutoh said organizers had established a programming panel to further those claims.

Rio CEO Carlos Nuzman meanwhile told reporters there was "no decision as yet" on whether next year's Games will have one flame or two, saying the question of having one flame at the Maracana stadium opening ceremony venue and another at the stadium hosting track and field was being addressed.

cw/nr