Rowing federation opposed to proposed Olympic venue move

TOKYO (AP) — The head of the international rowing federation wants to stick with his sport's planned venue for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics rather than move to a site hundreds of miles (kilometers) outside the city.

World Rowing president Jean-Christophe Rolland said Monday he was surprised and "disappointed" by a city government panel's recommendation to relocate the venue to save money.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike ordered a review of venues and costs by a panel of independent experts. A preliminary report Friday warned of soaring costs and proposed using existing venues for rowing, swimming and volleyball instead of building new ones.

"I was very surprised ... to hear about a possible change, and not to say more, a little bit disappointed," Rolland told reporters in Tokyo, where he was on a scheduled visit. "We made a full in-depth review of all the possibilities, and the outcome of this is that the Sea Forest is the best solution."

Rolland said he visited the originally proposed venue, called "Umi no Mori (Sea Forest)," earlier Monday and felt confident that it remained the best site for the competition.

"For me, there is no doubt this is absolutely suitable for the sport of rowing," he said.

Koike, who met with Rolland later Monday, said cost-cutting is key to Tokyo's broader reforms and she planned to review the Olympic venues. She noted that the games were originally intended to help Japan's northern region, including Fukushima, recover from the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Any further changes to the venues will require approval of the sports federations and the International Olympic Committee.

"What we know is that in general the costs for construction have been rising not only for Olympic projects, but for many different reasons, in particular because of the reconstruction which has to happen in Japan because of Fukushima," IOC President Thomas Bach said during a visit to Paris. "So we will discuss this in a constructive way with the organizing committee."

Tokyo's report recommended an existing venue about 400 kilometers (250 miles) north of Tokyo as a cheaper option to the rowing site in Tokyo, where the latest cost estimate for renovations has risen to seven times its initial projections. While organizers hope to make the venue a future "mecca" of rowing, the report calls it groundless because of Japan's small rowing communities and their lack of incentives to relocate to Tokyo.

The alternative existing venues for the other two sports are in the Tokyo area.

Organizing committee deputy director Yukihiko Nunomura reassured Rolland that the venue included in the initial bid is the one approved by all concerned parties.

Nunomura said Japanese and IOC officials, including coordination commission chairman John Coates, had an emergency teleconference Friday to discuss Tokyo's cost-cutting proposals. Coates raised concerns about relocating venues too far away from the athletes village, Kyodo News said.

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