MONACO — South Korean and Japanese Olympic organizers will be able to make changes to their venue plans for the 2018 and 2020 Games if the moves can help cut costs and avoid white elephants, IOC President Thomas Bach said Saturday.
Bach said that, if his package of reforms is approved by the IOC next week, it will give organizers more flexibility to adjust their plans for the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang and the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
Organizers in both host countries are facing concerns over construction costs and other financial pressures — issues that are addressed in Bach's Olympic Agenda 2020 reforms that will be voted on here Monday and Tuesday.
"We are in discussion with the respective organizing committees about what the Olympic Agenda 2020 means for them," Bach said at a news conference following a 1 ½ -day meeting of his executive board. "It can also be venue changes being discussed if such a venue change leads to more sustainability and leads to less expenses."
Bach said International Olympic Committee officials will visit both countries in January and February to review their preparations and consider possible adjustments emanating from the reforms.
Worries over rising costs have led Japanese organizers to review their initial plans for having the majority of venues located within an 8-kilometer (5-mile) radius of the Olympic Village. The reforms could clear the way for organizers to move some events outside the central zone.
Saitama Super Arena, a 37,000-seat multipurpose venue about one hour north of Tokyo, has been proposed as a possible alternate location for the Olympic basketball competition. Preliminary events in basketball and soccer could also be held in cities outside of Tokyo.
In South Korea, meanwhile, a dispute over construction costs has raised worries about the Pyeongchang Olympics.
Provincial and county councils recently issued a joint statement threatening to give up the rights to host the Olympics if the central government doesn't commit to more financial support.
The government has offered to pay half of the 66.2 billion won ($60 million) cost for building a new stadium to host the opening and closing ceremonies, Gangwon province councilman Lee Ki-chan said Thursday.
However, he said Seoul must increase its share to 75 percent or higher, otherwise the Olympics risk financially crippling the province.
Pyeongchang organizers presented a progress report to the IOC executive board on Saturday.
"They told us they will deliver on time and on budget," Bach said. "At the same time, what is true for Tokyo is also true for Pyeongchang. If the Olympic Agenda 2020 is approved, we will then enter into discussions with regard to the implementation. This, like in Tokyo, can include venue changes and can lead to lesser capacities with regard to different venues."
Cho Yang-ho, who took over as head of the Pyeongchang organizing committee in July following the sudden resignation of the previous leader, has "the full confidence of the IOC," Bach said.
"He has asked for some time after he took over in order to address the difficult issues, including the budget," Bach said. "He has to have discussions with the different levels of government in Korea. The IOC executive board has granted him this time."
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