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IOC executive says cost of summer games should be cut by $1 billion

John Coates, chairman of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Coordination Commission. (Mainichi)

LIMA, Peru -- John Coates, chairman of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Coordination Commission for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, has said, "We need to be targeting something like... a $1 billion reduction," with regard to the cost of summer Olympic tournaments, in an exclusive interview with the Mainichi Shimbun.

Touching on the worrying trend of cities across the world backing away from the Olympics and Paralympics due to massive outlays, Coates explained that lowering expenses would make candidate cities more likely to welcome the tournament to their city -- stressing that cutting costs is essential in order to sustain the event in the future.

With regard to the combined outlays for the Olympics and Paralympics in 2020, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government has provisionally calculated that the total cost amounts to about 1.39 trillion yen (about $12.5 billion). The specific breakdown of this is: 835 billion yen for venue-related expenses and 550 billion yen for operating costs including shipping and security.

To assist with the preparations for 2020, the IOC has teamed up with the Japanese government, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, and the Tokyo Organizing Committee to review the operation of the games. Based on a medium to long-term program called "Agenda 2020," which the IOC devised in 2014, the Tokyo Organizing Committee has trimmed down expenses relating to venues by about 200 billion yen by switching to existing venues in the greater Tokyo area. Coates acknowledges this improvement, stating that venue-related outlays have been successfully cut but points out that operational costs have swelled in recent years.

As a result, Coates wants the goal of reducing the 550 billion yen operational costs to be the focus of attention. He explains that there has been wasteful spending in this area at previous games and emphasizes that his organization needs to tell the Tokyo Organizing Committee about unnecessary outlays or costs that can be cut.

The specific expenses that Coates believes can be cut are: the scale of the temporary facilities used for security checks of people entering stadia, the amount of food provided to the 'Olympic family' consisting of IOC committee members and international sports association members, the space for buses at venues, and the number of volunteers and tournament board members.

With more cities now reluctant to host the Olympics and Paralympics, the IOC decided the host cities for the games in 2024 (Paris) and 2028 (Los Angeles) simultaneously, an unconventional move. Looking ahead, Coates wants the Tokyo Games to search for ways to further reduce expenses in order to encourage future candidate cities and says the IOC keeps telling the Tokyo committee that "more work has to be done to reduce the budget." In addition, he made it clear that Sapporo, which is a possible candidate city for the 2026 Winter Olympics, needs to reduce overall costs to $2.5 billion.

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