AP

Thomas Bach reminds Tokyo 2020 to stick with venue plans

Leave a comment

TOKYO (AP) — IOC President Thomas Bach expressed willingness Tuesday to work with Tokyo officials to achieve a “significant reduction” in costs for the 2020 Olympics, but suggested the effort should stick to the current venue plans.

Bach arrived in Japan amid growing tension between Olympic organizers and recently elected Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, who is pushing to cut costs. A preliminary report from a city expert panel late last month proposed moving three sports from planned new venues to existing ones — including relocating rowing to a site hundreds of miles outside the capital.

Bach reminded the governor that Tokyo should respect the agreement it signed when it was awarded the Games three years ago.

“I think it is in the interest of Japan, Tokyo and IOC that we do not change the rules of the competition after the election,” Bach said. “By respecting these principles we can very well look into the budget of Tokyo 2020 and we can look at the cost. We can see together how we can make it even more feasible.”

Bach proposed four-party talks among the International Olympic Committee, Tokyo organizers, the city government and Japan’s central government to agree on additional cost reductions, starting as early as November after Tokyo releases a final report. Bach declined to discuss specific proposals, saying he only knew about them from media reports.

“The Tokyo metropolitan government will finalize its internal study, then we’ll discuss it with the other stakeholders … and then I am confident that you will see a significant reduction in the cost compared to what we have seen so far from the press,” Bach told reporters after a 40-minute televised meeting with Koike.

The Tokyo panel’s preliminary report said the overall cost of the Olympics could exceed $30 billion — four times the initial estimate — unless drastic cuts are made.

The review focuses on whether each venue can be cost-effective while also contribute to the reconstruction of the area hit by the 2011 tsunami and Fukushima disaster.

“That’s how we have promoted to attract the Games,” Koike said. “We need understanding of the residents of Tokyo as we are relying on their money.”

The IOC has suggested the possibility of moving rowing to an existing site in South Korea in case there is no resolution over the Japanese venue, the Asahi newspaper reported, quoting unidentified Japanese sources as saying. The South Korean venue in Chungiu City hosted the 2013 world championships and rowing at the 2014 Asian Games.

Asked about the report at Tokyo’s Haneda airport, Bach said: “I will not comment on any kind of rumors.” Japanese Olympic Minister Tamayo Marukawa told reporters she could not confirm the report.

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

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

After her election at the end of July, Koike convened a panel of independent experts to review Olympic venues and costs.

Its most drastic proposal has been to suggest moving the rowing and canoeing venue to an existing facility about 250 miles (400 kilometers) north of Tokyo, after the projected cost for a new venue in Tokyo Bay rose to 49 billion yen ($490 million), seven times the initial estimate.

John Coates, an IOC vice president and former rower who heads the coordination commission for the Tokyo Games, was asked about the costs of the rowing site in Tokyo.

“The figures are very large to us,” he said. “We can certainly reduce those numbers.”

Meanwhile, the Japan Rowing Association and Japan Canoe Federation issued separate statements calling for the venue to stay in Tokyo.

The local organizing committee in Tokyo has objected to the possible move, arguing the competition should remain at the planned Sea Forest Waterway.

It said the existing facility that Koike is exploring in northern Japan’s Miyagi prefecture lacks infrastructure, accommodation for spectators and will be inconvenient for athletes.

Tokyo organizers also said the final construction cost for the Sea Forest Waterway will likely be lower than estimated, while additional costs for transportation, security and infrastructure to move the events to Miyagi would add up.

The expert panel has also suggested sticking with the planned venues, but reducing their scale to save money.

MORE: Tim Finchem eyes Olympic golf change in 2020

At U.S. Open swim meet, teens make a splash with Olympic trials on horizon

Getty Images
Leave a comment

While Olympic and world champions Katie LedeckySimone Manuel and Chase Kalisz notched expected victories at the U.S. Open on Thursday, a trio of teenagers lowered personal bests to further establish their Tokyo Olympic hopes.

At the top domestic meet of the winter, Alex WalshCarson Foster and Kieran Smith each earned runner-up finishes, but their performances stood out in the big picture: looking at June’s Olympic trials, where the top two per individual event make the team.

Walsh, a rising Nashville high school senior, took 2.23 seconds off her 200m individual medley best. She clocked 2:09.01, overtaken by .17 by Melanie Margalis, the Rio Olympic and 2019 World Championships fourth-place finisher.

Full meet results are here.

Walsh moved from fifth-fastest in the U.S. this year to No. 2 behind Margalis, passing Olympic and world championships veterans Ella EastinKathleen Baker and Madisyn Cox. Of those swimmers, only Eastin was also in Thursday’s final.

Walsh joined her younger sister, Gretchen, in Olympic qualifying position based on 2019 times. Gretchen, 16, ranks fourth in the U.S. in the 100m free this year. The top six in that event at trials are in line to make the Olympic 4x100m free relay pool.

The Walshes could become the third set of sisters to make the same U.S. Olympic swim team, and the second to do it in pool swimming after Dana and Tara Kirk in 2004.

Foster, 18, continued his ascent Thursday in taking second to Kalisz in the men’s 200m IM. The world junior champion lowered his personal best in the prelims and the final, getting down to 1:57.59. Foster passed Ryan Lochte, who is nearly twice his age, in Thursday’s final and in the 2019 U.S. rankings. Only Kalisz and Michael Andrew have been faster among Americans this year.

Foster is trying to become the youngest U.S. Olympic male swimmer since 2000, when a 15-year-old Michael Phelps made his Olympic debut. Foster, who has been breaking Phelps national age-group records since he was 10, committed to the University of Texas in March 2018, two years before he graduates high school in Ohio.

Then there’s Kieran Smith, now a prime candidate to fill a huge void in the 400m freestyle. Zane Grothe is the only American ranked in the top 20 in the world this year.

Smith, a 19-year-old from the University of Florida, took 2.29 seconds off his lifetime best on Thursday to jump from outside the top 10 to No. 2 in the U.S. on the year. Smith was already ranked No. 2 in the country in the 200m free.

Two more runners-up in the 50m freestyles — Erika Brown to Manuel and Zach Apple to Brazilian Bruno Fratus — lowered personal bests to move to No. 3 in each U.S. ranking list this year.

The U.S. Open continues Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. ET with live coverage on NBCSN and streaming on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Dressel recalls summer tears in Golden Goggles speech

Nathan Chen distances Yuzuru Hanyu in Grand Prix Final short program

Leave a comment

A brilliant Nathan Chen outscored a flawed Yuzuru Hanyu for a fourth straight head-to-head program, taking a 12.95-point lead at the Grand Prix Final in Turin, Italy, on Thursday.

Chen, the two-time reigning world champion, tallied 110.38 points going into Saturday’s free skate. He landed a quadruple Lutz, triple Axel and quad toe loop-triple toe loop combination.

It’s the highest short program score in the world this season, leading the American to say “wow” in the kiss-and-cry area. His coach, the often-gruff Rafael Arutyunyan, banged his knee against his pupil’s.

Hanyu, the two-time reigning Olympic champion, hit a quadruple Salchow and triple Axel but then stepped out of a quad toe landing. He therefore failed to include a required jumping combination and ended up in second place.

“I wanted to do a great performance and do a good competition against [Chen], but that didn’t happen this time,” Hanyu, who was without longtime coach Brian Orser, or any other coach, said through a translator. Hanyu said Orser was busy last week, so he chose to use his lone accreditation on another coach who had travel delays.

Hanyu is not out of title contention. His world-leading free skate score this season is 16.61 points better than Chen’s best free skate from the fall Grand Prix Series.

Chen is undefeated since placing fifth at the PyeongChang Olympics, but this is just his second head-to-head with Hanyu in that span. Chen defeated Hanyu at March’s world championships, where the Japanese megastar was likely affected by an ankle injury.

After Thursday’s program, Chen repeated what he said before the competition: he still feels like he’s chasing Hanyu.

“Yuzu is like the goat, he’s the greatest of all time, really,” Chen said. “So, to have this opportunity to be able to share the ice with a guy like that, someone that I’ve looked up to for a long time, someone that I’ve watched grow up through the junior ranks when I was like a baby, it’s really cool to be able see him now. It’s really cool to even just be able to see him person.”

The Grand Prix Final, the biggest annual event outside the world championships, continues Friday with the rhythm dance, women’s short and pairs’ free skate. A full TV and live stream schedule is here.

Earlier in pairs, Chinese Sui Wenjing and Han Cong took their first step toward a first Grand Prix Final title. The Olympic silver medalists tallied 77.50, leading Russians Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitriy Kozlovskiy by .85 going into Friday’s free skate.

Sui and Han were imperfect, with Sui putting her hand down on a throw triple flip landing. They are undefeated in this Beijing Olympic cycle and own the world’s top total score this season.

The U.S. failed to qualify a pair for the six-team Final for the 11th time in the last 12 years.

Grand Prix Final
Men’s Short Program
1. Nathan Chen (USA) — 110.38
2. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) — 97.43
3. Kevin Aymoz (FRA) — 96.71
4. Dmitriy Aliyev (RUS) — 88.78
5. Alexander Samarin (RUS) — 81.32
6. Jin Boyang (CHN) — 80.67

Pairs’ Short Program
1. Sui Wenjing/Han Cong (CHN) — 77.50
2. Aleksandra Boikova / Dmitriy Kozlovskiy (RUS) — 76.65
3. Daria Pavliuchenko/Denis Khodykin (RUS) — 75.16
4. Anastasia Mishina/Aleksandr Galliamov (RUS) — 71.48
5. Peng Cheng/Jin Yang (CHN) — 69.67
6. Kirsten Moore-Towers/Michael Marinaro (CAN) — 67.08

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Alysa Liu, with help from Olympic medalist, challenges top Russians