Twenty-six sports, from sumo to surfing, have applied for inclusion in the 2020 Olympics, Tokyo organisers said Friday amid a flaming row over who will pay for the main stadium.
Tug of war, polo and the World Underwater Federation — which oversees sports such as free diving, spearfishing and submerged hockey — will also hope to make the shortlist that Tokyo will announce on June 22.
Baseball and softball, hugely popular in Japan, are tipped to make the cut when Tokyo officials submit their final proposals to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in September, while karate, billiards and American football will hope to join them.
“There are some sports that frankly I’d never heard of,” Tokyo Olympic chief Yoshiro Mori told a news conference. “Sports that appeal to the younger generation will be among the criteria, but we also have to be mindful of cost.”
He added: “It would be difficult to choose a sport if it required the construction of a completely new venue.”
However, local politics overshadowed the main agenda once again with Tokyo’s leaders furious at government demands the city contribute around $400 million towards the cost of the new National Stadium as the saga took another twist.
Tokyo Governor Yoichi Masuzoe, who recently accused the government of “behaving like the Imperial Army,” has taken aim at the country’s lawmakers again.
Sports Minister Hakubun Shimomura suggested earlier this week that legislation could be passed allowing the central government to order Tokyo to pay, a move Masuzoe blasted as “unconstitutional.”
– Escalating costs –
“It’s written in the constitution that you cannot establish a new law without gaining a majority of votes in a local referendum,” Masuzoe told local television. “Tokyo’s citizens will be annoyed at hearing such a statement.”
Mori attempted to defuse the row.
“I’m not an expert on constitutional law but the basic issue is do we want to get this done or not,” the former Japanese Prime Minister said. “Obviously we have to keep working together to achieve a common goal.”
Shimomura has also proposed further scaling back plans for National Stadium, including scrapping the retractable roof, in a bid to control escalating costs.
But his decision to lobby Tokyo for almost 30 percent of the estimated total construction bill of $1.4 billion enraged Masuzoe.
“It’s irresponsible to keep repeating ‘we can build it’,” he said. “That’s like the Japanese Imperial Army during the war saying ‘we’re winning, we’re winning’ — when in fact we were losing.”
Shimomura wants to wait until after the Olympics to add a retractable roof and has called for 30,000 of the stadium’s 80,000 seats to be temporary, to reduce the financial burden and to complete construction in time for the 2019 rugby World Cup in Japan.
The Olympic stadium has faced two years of widespread criticism, with prominent Japanese architects lambasting Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid’s futuristic designs, and the budget has been slashed by 40 percent.
The old National Stadium, built for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, was recently demolished and construction on the new venue is scheduled to begin in October.