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  • Summer Sports Blast Tokyo Olympic Preparations


    (ATR) Tokyo 2020’s sports director was forced to defend Games preparations amid a barrage of concerns raised by summer Olympic federations at their general assembly.
    IFs raised issues with Tokyo 2020 officials at the ASOIF general assembly in Gold Coast. (ASOIF)

    Olympic gold medallist Koji Murofushi and the Tokyo 2020 delegation came under fire during their update to the ASOIF member federations at SportAccord on the Gold Coast.

    Sport Accord has attracted the “who’s who” of sport – over 1,500 representatives from up to 100 countries, representing 500 international federations and associated sports organisations, events and media. Tuesday was the day of the heavy hitters at SportAccord – the gathering of summer IFs preparing for next year’s Games. Murofushi – the 2004 Athens Olympic gold medallist in the hammer throw – and Games delivery officer Hide Nakamura presented a progress report.

    There had already been some discussions on day one of SportAccord surrounding what appear to be the two major talking points of the 2020 Games – transport and managing the heat. Tokyo 2020 were prepared for another onslaught that will keep them on their toes until the July 24 opening ceremony.

    The Japanese were somewhat apologetic, even before the latest round of complaints, These covered everything from concerns about test events, travel, heat, transport, inflated accommodation costs, food, sport presentation and the look.

    The imposing figure of Murofushi front and center gave the impression that his team were expecting to hear that things were not all running as smoothly as they had maybe made out. But he indicated that they were prepared to go back to Tokyo to keep working on a Games that so many believe has the potential to be the best since Sydney.

    IFs Speak Out

    World Sailing, International Tennis Federation, International Triathlon Union and the International Judo Federation were just four of the sports who spoke up on their concerns. Most surrounded their upcoming test events – which will get underway in July – with triathlon, an automatic Olympic qualifier for many countries, among the first on a busy 2019-20 schedule.

    But it was sailing chief executive Andy Hunt who led the charge, reiterating a range of concerns, in particular about the federation’s test event. And no one will doubt Hunt, the former CEO of the British Olympic Association, a non executive director of the London 2012 Olympics and chef de mission of the 2012 British team.

    Tokyo 2020 sports director Koji Murofushi presents to ASOIF general assembly. (SportAccord)
    “Accommodation remains a major concern, the hotels appear overpriced and Tokyo 2020 do not appear to have secured enough reasonably priced accommodation, particularly in satellite venues (like sailing and triathlon),” Hunt told the packed room of international Olympic sport delegations, many of whom supported his claims.

    “Tokyo 2020 is also forcing IFs to undertake flight bookings from inbound tour operators (ITO) for the test events and expecting the IFs to take the financial risk for the real costs and the currency exchange risk,” he said.

    “I do not believe that the IFs should be out of pocket in providing ITOs for the test events; I strongly urge you [Tokyo 2020] to consider using your appointed travel agents to undertake these bookings or at least guarantee to the IFs that they will not be financially penalised if they undertake those bookings.

    He added: “We are also extremely concerned at the service levels that are being imposed on athletes at venues.
    “For example at sailing there is no hot food for athletes at the venue; or enough athlete shade, water provision or medical services matching athletes needs.

    “These matters need to be urgently addressed and re-thought as they really are basic athlete services.

    “I sincerely urge you as you move into the operational readiness and delivery phase for Tokyo 2020 that you make resolving these issues expediently and efficiently, a key focus.

    “I think if you do so you can deliver a great Olympic Games.”

    Tokyo Hits Back

    Murofushi confirmed that Tokyo 2020 would strive to build a stronger and closer relationship with athletes and ASOIF members as well as engage his entire Games team. He gave a guarantee that next year’s 37th Olympiad will be an “athletes first” Games.

    “I know it is frustrating but we will be sure to accept and manage athlete services and meet with your satisfaction and create these environments,” Murofushi said.

    “We are also fully aware of the importance of the engagement and our 52 functional areas in the Olympic committee and the great experience we have to deliver.

    “I just want to emphasise myself that Tokyo 2020 regarding accommodation and travel we will be more flexible and go through our agency for that solution.”

    ASOIF president Francesco Ricci Bitti reaffirmed that his organisation would work through all the issues when they hold talks with Tokyo 2020 at their next meeting.

    Reported by Ian Hanson at SportAccord

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