By Elaine Lies
TOKYO (Reuters) - International Olympic Committee vice president John Coates has urged Tokyo to ensure plans for the 2020 Summer Games avoid wasteful construction and welcomed talk of reviewing or possibly scaling back venues.
Japanese officials, led by Tokyo governor Yoichi Masuzoe, said earlier this month that rising labor and construction costs were forcing the Japanese capital to rethink its plans for 10 venues it intended to build for the games.
Tokyo won the right to host the games last year, beating out Madrid and Istanbul with its financial strength and pledges to hold a "compact" Olympics, but some of the proposed changes include using existing venues outside central Tokyo instead of building new ones downtown.
"We want to see venues that are sustainable, and sustainable legacies," Coates told a news conference on Friday at the end of a three-day visit by the IOC's Coordination Commission, the first since Tokyo won hosting rights last September.
"We want to see more existing venues, we want to see the use of more temporary grandstands... It may be that there are new venues and existing venues at the moment that are dedicated for just one sport, where with good programming you could do two."
Tokyo's bid emphasized a war chest of some $4.5 billion and pledged to keep most competition sites within 8 km of the Olympic Village in downtown Tokyo.
But skyrocketing construction and labor costs, partly as a result of the 2011 disaster that devastated a wide swathe of Japan's northeastern coast and partly due to a hike in consumption tax, prompted officials to call for the review.
In one case, the kayak/canoe sprint venue, new estimates came in 15 times higher than original plans, which had not taken into account costs for building a dam and moving part of a waste disposal facility currently on the site, Japanese media said.
One proposed change would be to opt out of building new facilities for basketball and badminton and use existing ones instead. One feted venue, the Saitama Super Arena, is roughly 25 km from downtown Tokyo.
Coates said talks this week did not touch on specific venues except for the kayak/canoe slalom course, which has run into opposition from environmentalists because building it could damage a bird sanctuary, but said the IOC was happy with Tokyo's preparations and the plans for a review.
"This is something that we're particularly pleased about, because in the evaluation commission report we identified that there would be an opportunity to further improve on the plans that were presented then," he said, adding that he hoped changes could be made as soon as possible.
Discussions were not held about the new National Stadium, whose design by London-based architect Zaha Hadid, responsible for the aquatics center for the 2012 London Olympics, has already been scaled back due to cost concerns.
An initial round of bids to demolish the current National Stadium, built in 1964 for the first Tokyo Olympics, fell through due to the high cost of the proposals made.
Preparations were being made for a new round of bids but the timetable had yet to be decided, said an official at the Japan Sport Council, which runs the arena. Demolition will take roughly 14 months.
"The work is likely to be delayed by only a month or so," she added.
(Editing by John O'Brien)