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Tokyo Olympics costs could top $30 billion, experts warn

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TOKYO (AP) — The price tag of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics could exceed 3 trillion yen ($30 billion) unless drastic cost-cutting measures are taken and several key venues are relocated, an expert panel warned Thursday in the latest blow to Japanese organizers.

“Naturally, anyone who hears these numbers is alarmed,” panel leader Shinichi Ueyama said.

The Olympic investigation team was launched by newly elected Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike after she raised concerns about growing cost estimates and the potential burden on the city and its taxpayers.

The panel said the ballooning costs reflect an absence of leadership, as well as a lack of governance and awareness of cost control.

The report, submitted to Koike on Thursday, reviewed three out of seven permanent venues that Tokyo is planning to build, and proposed using existing locations rather than new facilities that could end up being white elephants. It proposed moving rowing and canoeing more than 400 kilometers (250 miles) outside the city, as well as finding new sites for swimming and volleyball.

Koike said she plans to discuss possible options with International Olympic Committee officials who are expected to visit Japan in the coming weeks.

“We cannot impose the negative legacy onto the Tokyo residents,” Koike told reporters.

Preparations for Japan’s first Summer Olympics since Tokyo hosted the 1964 Games have been plagued by a series of scandals and problems, including the new national stadium’s high cost and design, and allegations of bribery in the bidding process.

Concerns over Tokyo’s budget come amid growing global scrutiny over the costs of hosting the Olympics. Many cities have been scared off by the record $51 billion in overall costs associated with the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi. Rome’s bid for the 2024 Olympics was rejected last week by the new mayor, citing concerns over high costs.

The estimated 3 trillion yen cost of the Tokyo Games is more than a four-fold increase from the initial estimate at the time of the city’s ‘s successful bid for the games in 2013.

Ueyama, a Keio University public policy professor, criticized Tokyo’s Olympic organizers as irresponsible, comparing them to “a company without a president and a chief financial officer.”

Tokyo organizing committee president Yoshiro Mori acknowledged in July 2015 that the total cost could exceed 2 trillion yen ($20 billion), doubling his unofficial estimate a year earlier.

Mori has said the original figures were the result of sloppy calculations which he blamed on the Tokyo metropolitan government and Japanese Olympic Committee.

On Thursday, Mori criticized the panel’s proposals for venue moves, saying it would be difficult to change the existing plans approved by the IOC.

“At this point, it would be extremely difficult to turn everything upside down from the Japanese side,” he said.

Tokyo has already implemented a series of venue changes which the IOC has said will save around $1 billion. Any further changes would require the approval of the IOC and relevant international sports federations.

The panel’s report said venue costs had been driven up by overestimated stadium capacities, use of unnecessarily high-grade equipment and lack of a budget ceiling.

Plans for long-term use of big new permanent facilities are overly optimistic considering Japan’s declining population and aging society, Ueyama said.

To cut costs, the report proposed moving the rowing and canoeing venue away from Tokyo and renovating existing facilities for two other sports.

The latest cost estimate for the rowing and canoeing venue stands at 49 billion yen ($490 million), seven times higher than the initial forecast. The current plan hopes to turn the venue, a former site of a garbage plant, into a “mecca” for the sport and attract 40,000 visitors, but the panel said that is overly optimistic in a country with only several hundred athletes in rowing and canoeing.

The panel proposed moving rowing and canoeing to Tome City, about 440 kilometers (270 miles) — or a three-hour train ride — northeast of Tokyo in the prefecture of Miyagi.

The report said a planned swimming venue with a capacity of 20,000 is way above the 12,000-seat requirement, and proposed renovating an existing Olympic-class facility in Tokyo’s Tatsumi area. It urged seeking an existing venue for volleyball instead of building a new arena in Tokyo’s Ariake coastal area.

Tokyo won the right to host the games in 2013 by promising a compact bid with 28 of the 31 competition venues within an eight-kilometer (5-mile) radius of the Olympic Village. Originally, only shooting, modern pentathlon and one football venue were to be outside the eight-kilometer radius.

Already, venues for basketball, taekwondo and cycling have been moved outside of Tokyo to maximize existing facilities. Cycling was moved to Izu, some 145 kilometers (90 miles) southwest of the capital.

MORE: Tokyo to propose moving more venues for Olympics

Katie Ledecky wins by 19 seconds, breaks world swimming titles record

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Katie Ledecky convincingly broke the female record for swimming world titles.

But Lilly King tasted even sweeter victory, breaking a world record and dominating rival Yulia Efimova at the world championships in Budapest on Tuesday. Video of that showdown is here.

Ledecky clocked 15:31.82 to win the 1500m freestyle by a whopping 19 seconds at the Danube Arena, her 12th career world gold. Spain’s Mireia Belmonte took silver, followed by Italian Simona Quadarella. Ledecky owns the world record of 15:25.48 and the seven fastest times in history.

Ledecky, a 20-year-old rising Stanford sophomore, broke her tie with Missy Franklin for the most career world titles by a woman. The overall record is held by Michael Phelps, who won 26.

Fifty minutes after her 1500m free, Ledecky won her 200m free semifinal to make Wednesday’s final.

“It’s hard 364 of the other days of the year,” Ledecky said. “It’s putting in the work in practice, so that when I get to this day of the meet, I can just do it. It’s routine. I can just get up and know that I have the work in the bank to get up and swim those times.”

Ledecky has three gold medals so far this week, en route to a possible six, which would tie Franklin’s female record for golds at a single worlds.

In other events Tuesday, Lilly King handed Russian rival Yulia Efimova another beating in the 100m breast. This time, the finger-wagging King broke the world record.

Kylie Masse became the first Canadian woman to win a world swimming title after the nation previously took 18 combined silver and bronze medals. Masse broke the longest-standing women’s world record in swimming, the 100m backstroke, which had stood since 2009, with a time of 58.10.

American Kathleen Baker took silver in 58.58, followed by defending world champion Emily Seebohm of Australia.

China’s Sun Yang bagged his ninth career world title with his first crown in the 200m freestyle in 1:44.39. American Townley Haas took silver, .65 behind, followed by Russian Aleksandr Krasnykh.

In Rio, Sun became the first swimmer to win Olympic titles in the 200m, 400m and 1500m frees. Now, he’s the first man to complete the 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m free set at worlds. Ledecky recorded that feat at a single worlds in 2015.

Canadian Xu Jiayu followed his Olympic silver medal with a gold in the 100m backstroke, edging 2012 Olympic champion Matt Grevers by .04. Rio gold medalist Ryan Murphy earned bronze.

Great Britain’s Adam Peaty broke his 50m breaststroke world record twice on Tuesday, in the preliminary heats and the semifinals. Peaty lowered the mark from 26.42 to 25.95 in the non-Olympic event.

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Lilly King beats Yulia Efimova again, breaks world record (video)

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Lilly King stared toward Yulia Efimova before the race. She glanced at her afterward.

In between, King handed her Russian rival another beating, this time in world-record fashion at the world championships in Budapest on Tuesday.

King won the 100m breaststroke in 1:04.13 to back up her finger-wagging Olympic 100m breast title with her first world title.

Countrywoman Katie Meili earned silver in 1:05.03, followed by Efimova getting bronze in 1:05.05.

“The rivalry is definitely there. I don’t think it’s going away anytime soon,” King said, according to The Associated Press. “Obviously, it’s very awkward between the two of us. We’re competitors. We don’t really like each other too much.”

King smashed the previous record of 1:04.35 held by Lithuanian Ruta Meilutyte, but she didn’t exactly feel confident Tuesday afternoon.

“I was actually, like really freaking out when I got to the pool,” King told media in Budapest. “I was like very nervous. Then I got in for warm-up, and I felt a lot better. I was feeling very confident going into the race.”

Once on the pool deck, King looked very much the trash-talking Indiana Hoosier who in Rio said Efimova shouldn’t be allowed to compete for previously failing two drug tests.

After introductions Tuesday, King stood staring at the lane next to her, where Efimova happened to be. Efimova did not appear to reciprocate.

“It’s always going to be a showdown,” King said, noting how impressed she was by Efimova’s semifinal swim Monday, when the Russian missed the world record by .01 and finger-wagged after.

King smirked, got up on her block and swam the fastest first 50 meters by a half-second over Efimova.

As Efimova faded in the last 25 meters, King surged to the wall. She turned around, saw the scoreboard and slammed her right arm into the pool.

Then she looked ever so briefly toward Efimova’s lane, turned back and raised both of her arms in the air.

Efimova said afterward that last year’s loss hurt more, according to the AP.

“There’s still pressure from the media, but it’s more fun,” Efimova reportedly said. “The Olympic Games were the worst.”

King and Efimova are slated to go head to head again in finals of the 200m breaststroke (Friday) and 50m breaststroke (Sunday). They are ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in both events this year.

Women’s 100m Breaststroke Results
Gold: Lilly King (USA) — 1:04.13

Silver: Katie Meili (USA) — 1:05:03
Bronze: Yulia Efimova (RUS) — 1:05.05
4. Ruta Meilutyte (LTU) — 1:05.65
5. Shi Jinglin (CHN) — 1:06.43
6. Kierra Smith (CAN) — 1:06.90
7. Jessica Vall (ESP) — 1:06.95
8. Sarah Vasey (GBR) — 1:07.19

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