Thomas Bach

AP

IOC: Tokyo most prepared Olympic host, but heat a growing worry

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TOKYO (AP) — IOC President Thomas Bach and other International Olympic Committee members are calling Tokyo the best prepared host city in memory.

Still, there are obstacles ahead for the 2020 Games, though small by the standards of the corruption-plagued Rio Olympics.

John Coates, head of an IOC inspection team, wrapped three days of meetings in Tokyo on Wednesday and said the city’s summer heat is a growing worry.

Organizers are proposing to start the marathon between 5:30-6 a.m., and have moved up morning rugby matches by 90 minutes to play in the cooler air. Mountain biking will be contested later in the afternoon for the same reason.

Organizers are also struggling to keep the 600 billion yen (about $5.3 billion) operating budget balanced with heat-related solutions driving up costs.

This is the privately-funded budget for running the Games themselves and separate from billions more that governments are spending to prepare the city.

“The organizing committee and the people of Japan remain on track to deliver spectacular Olympic and Paralympic Games,” Coates said.

Yoshiro Mori, the president of organizing committee, was sitting alongside and was cautious about the plaudits.

“We should not be overconfident about such praise,” he said through an interpreter. “We still should buckle down very firmly … They praise us, they give us a good report card. But in addition to that I want to be better.”

This summer’s scorching Tokyo heat nudged 40 degrees C (104 degrees F) several times and is running up costs and concerns.

Coates said an IOC panel had studied the problem and called this summer “abnormal.”

“It will continue to be at the front of our minds for us and the organizers,” Coates said. “We will do everything possible to insure that they (athletes) are not competing at risk — or watching at risk.”

Coates said organizers are preparing more cooling light-water sprays, reflective pavement for the running courses and more shade for fans.

“It’s those sorts of things,” Coates said. “There’s a list of about 20 precautions they think we should take, and they’re not going to be free.”

Coates said those and other costs were stressing the operating budget. The third version of that budget will be presented Dec. 21.

“My confidence is that there will be a balanced subject, subject to there being nothing massively untoward,” Coates said.

Several months ago, Coates contrasted Tokyo with Rio.

“In Rio we didn’t know who was paying what — if at all,” he said.

Tokyo’s privately funded operating budget of $5.3 billion derives income from the IOC, domestic sponsorship sales, merchandise sales and ticket sales.

The largest chunk of income is from domestic sponsorship sales, which have reached about $3 billion. Coates and Bach said the enthusiasm of Japanese companies had helped smash all records.

Still, Coates said about $100 million more was needed to meet budget requirements.

Coates said he was hopeful “there won’t be any drain on the public purse.”

Despite the wealth of private money, public money is still the backbone of the Tokyo Olympics.

The national government’s Board of Audit spelled out total Olympic costs in a 178-page report published in October. It forecasts total spending to prepare the Olympics at about $20 billion. That includes the private operating budget.

The rest comes from the national government, Tokyo city government and other local governments — meaning about 75 percent of the funding is taxpayer money.

This reality contrasts sharply with Tokyo’s winning bid in 2013, which projected overall Olympics costs of 829 billion yen ($7.3 billion).

Tokyo organizers and the IOC dispute what are — and what are not — Olympic costs. It’s complicated. Some projects might have been built without the Olympics and are not clearly related. Others are driven directly by the requirements of hosting the Games.

Stung by criticism of forcing cities to build white elephant venues, the IOC is saying the upcoming Olympics in Paris (2024) and Los Angeles (2028) will rely heavily on existing venues. The same is true for the two bids for the 2026 Winter Olympics: Stockholm, Sweden, and the Italian bid of Milan-Cortina.

The outlier is the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. The Chinese capital spent at least $40 billion on the 2008 Summer Olympics. Bach and the IOC cautioned China to keep the costs down.

Also, the Tokyo city government said a 51-year-old man died Wednesday after falling from the 12th floor of a building under construction at the athletes village in the bay area of Tokyo. He was Japanese, but his name has not been released.

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Esports has no Olympic future with violence, Thomas Bach says

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JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach isn’t certain if, or when, esports might be incorporated into the Olympic Games.

But he was clear in an interview with The Associated Press at the Asian Games on Saturday about the need to meet some conditions before being considered.

“We cannot have in the Olympic program a game which is promoting violence or discrimination,” he told the AP. “So-called killer games. They, from our point of view, are contradictory to the Olympic values and cannot therefore be accepted.”

Esports is being held for the first time at the Asian Games as a demonstration sport, and could be a full-medal event in four years in Hangzhou, China.

Could the Olympics be next?

The IOC has been mulling over many of these questions since holding an esports forum in July at IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Bach still needs convincing. He won an Olympic gold medal in fencing, which uses swords, and tried to draw a distinction.

“Of course every combat sport has its origins in a real fight among people,” he said. “But sport is the civilized expression about this. If you have egames where it’s about killing somebody, this cannot be brought into line with our Olympic values.”

Asian Games organizers several days ago expressed sympathy for victims of the deadly shooting at a video games tournament in a Florida shopping mall.

They faulted U.S. gun laws, not esports.

“But I think this is a bigger issue of gun control and access to guns,” said Kenneth Fok, president of the Asian Electronic Sports Federation, following the shooting.

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Thomas Bach: PyeongChang Olympics ‘very close’ to being canceled

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IOC president Thomas Bach said the PyeongChang Olympics were “very close” to being canceled in a CNN interview published Tuesday.

“For cancellation of the Games, the threshold is not military action,” Bach said, after referencing North Korea’s missile tests and the threat of a military strike. “The threshold is that one country would say we are not going because we do not see there the safety and security of our athletes being guaranteed. There, the discussions were not always very easy, to say it diplomatically.”

Both the PyeongChang Olympics and Paralympics were held without known security disruptions in February and March. North Korea accepted an invitation to participate, with some if its athletes joining South Koreans for a unified women’s hockey team.

Afterward, Thomas Bach met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang and said that Kim supported a plan to have North Koreans compete in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and 2022 Beijing Winter Games.

The only times the Olympics were canceled came during World War I (1916) and World War II (1940, 1944).

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