The Yomiuri ShimbunTokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike won approval to delay “until Christmas” a decision on changing the volleyball venue for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.
The decision was made at a Tuesday meeting of representatives of the four main parties involved in hosting the Olympics, after Koike proposed the delay at the meeting.
The governor is trying to move the volleyball venue from the yet-to-be constructed Ariake Arena in Koto Ward, Tokyo, to the Yokohama Arena, an existing facility in Yokohama. However, after concerns were raised that any delay in the start of construction would increase costs, the meeting turned into a battle over the extension.
“I’d like to take some time to explain our current thinking,” Koike said at the meeting, which started more than 10 minutes late.
She then launched into an explanation of the metropolitan government’s conclusions on the venues for swimming, rowing and canoe sprint events, and volleyball. To keep open the option of holding the volleyball competition in Yokohama, Koike asked for more time, saying, “We’ll have a final decision by Christmas.”
Yoshiro Mori, president of the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, one of the four parties, and the other attendees eventually approved her request.
The main portion of the meeting’s deliberations were initially supposed to take place behind closed doors, but at Koike’s request, it was decided right before it began to open the entire meeting to the public.
Several sources said Koike had appealed to International Olympic Committee Vice President John Coates immediately before the meeting.
“We didn’t know about postponing the [volleyball] decision or opening [the meeting] to the public until just before” the session started, a senior Tokyo metropolitan government official said.
While at first Koike appeared to have seized the initiative in the meeting, Mori responded by raising doubts about the Yokohama plan. “I hear the Yokohama side is annoyed by the issue. Will you be able to [reach an agreement] in a month?” he pressed her.
Koike responded with: “We have objectively surveyed the possibilities of Yokohama, and they appear to be significant. The [Yokohama] city government has said it would welcome the opportunity [to host the event] if that is what we decide.”
Koike’s main motivation for changing the volleyball venue to Yokohama is that it would be much cheaper than building the Ariake Arena. However, the failure to successfully change even a venue “would affect the strength of the governor’s leadership,” a Tokyo metropolitan government source said.
Koike had initially wanted to change the rowing and canoe venue to the Miyagi Naganuma Boat Race Course in Miyagi Prefecture.
However, she backed out after being cautioned about the plan in mid-October by IOC President Thomas Bach.
Moving the volleyball venue to the Yokohama Arena then emerged as an alternative.
At the meeting, IOC Olympic Games Executive Director Christophe Dubi said that if events are going to be held in Yokohama, a detailed management plan needs to be drawn up, and approval from all private landowners and public institutions involved would be needed, highlighting that multiple issues still need to be resolved for this option.Speech