TOKYO – John Coates, chairman of the International Olympic Committee’s Coordination Commission for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, said Monday the Japanese capital needs to strategize beyond the games.
In an exclusive interview with Kyodo News, Coates said while organizers deal with the pre-Olympic madness, they must embed legacy planning in every aspect of their preparations, particularly when considering how to make the best use of venues post-games.
“This was something that in Sydney we did not do well, but the national federations have to be encouraged to sit down with their international federations now and say, ‘look, can you include us for a future world cup in particular sports?'” he said.
“Now is your time to take advantage of the fact that you’re hosting the games. International federations will listen to you now. Put your hand up for some world cups. You’ve got these venues so we want to make sure they’re used as high-performance venues, but also to train young people in those particular sports.”
Coates, who was in Tokyo for an IOC project review meeting, said organizers continue to face the “must-fix” challenges of infrastructure and construction, mitigation of transport challenges and heat risks.
“We need to be able to, for the athletes in particular, to guarantee the (amount of) time it will take to get from the (athletes’) village to the venues. We need to see the impact of some of the measures that have been introduced during the test events,” he said.
“Since it’s an issue we’ve prioritized, the organizing committee has paid a lot of attention to it as has the Tokyo metropolitan government and the Japanese government.”
Regarding the road pricing plans that could possibly see the Metropolitan Expressway tolls go up, Coates said the central and Tokyo governments will do whatever is acceptable to help organizers address the problem, including one to curb traffic volume during the games.
“Maybe these are long-term solutions, but when it comes to impacts on the community, I think it’s better that the government makes those decisions (and not the IOC).”
But he has been pleased to witness the empowerment of local communities and thinks the reconstruction theme and the bringing of the games to areas affected by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster is important to Japanese society in general, especially to young people.
“The fact that they took the flag all around the country, the fact that the torch relay is going to all 47 prefectures, is a wonderful opportunity for you to encourage sport among all people, young athletes and young children,” Coates said.
Coates said surfing, skateboarding and sport climbing were selected and proposed to build youth engagement in the Olympic movement, while karate and baseball and softball were recognized for their history in the country.
“I think those five were very good sports to add. I’m very confident that surfing, skateboarding and climbing will be a great success and be well received,” he said.
Tokyo will make a historic step in bringing the games to young people and reflecting the urbanization of sport with the staging of youth- and urban-oriented events, such as skateboarding and sport climbing to a cluster of venues in the Aomi and Ariake areas.
“(The temporary sports cluster) is an opportunity to take sport to the people. There will be opportunities for children to participate at these venues when the competition finishes in the afternoon,” he said.
“I think it’s a way of engaging with the community in a less formal structure. I’m pleased that Tokyo is leading the way. I think you’ll be remembered for being the first games to introduce urban sports. Not just those new sports, but new events — freestyle BMX and 3×3 basketball. I think you’ll go down in history.”