(ATR) John Coates says images of Rio Games venues in disuse and disrepair that are making global headlines is hurting the Olympic brand and IOC.
Six months on from the Games, the famed Maracana and aquatics center are among venues that have either been abandoned or fallen into disrepair amid the crippling financial crisis gripping Brazil.
Speaking exclusively to Around the Rings in Sapporo, host of the Asian Winter Games, the IOC vice president admitted that Rio’s poor legacy is a major concern for Thomas Bach’s Olympic committee.
"It’s not a good look for us. There’s no doubt about that," he told ATR.
"We wanted the venues to be used, to be a legacy for those [permanent arenas] that were to stay."
Coates said part of the problem had "always been" that the Rio Olympic Park in the Barra area was so far away from a lot of the city’s population.
"I hope that they find a way of bringing people to it to utilize those venues," he added.
Rio’s legacy of white elephants comes in the wake of the IOC’s much-vaunted Agenda 2020 reforms designed to cut costs and deliver sustainable Games.
Asked how the IOC and organizing committee have allowed it to happen, he appeared to put the blame at Rio’s door.
"It can happen because of the financial situation with the city council, and not having put in place companies to manage these venues afterwards. It’s local planning," Coates said.
But the senior IOC official said he was not worried about Rio's legacy failings being repeated for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
"Because we are not having an Olympic Park like in Rio. In the Heritage Zone they are existing venues... the big [new] one being the national stadium."
He said he had confidencein after-use plans for new venues for modern pentathlon and rowing/sprint canoeing. A new temporary arena for gymnastics will be converted into a convention center post-Games, while the new volleyball facility is to become a multipurpose venue for concerts and other events.
"I don’t think there are the same risks [as for Rio 2016]. I don’t see it at all," Coates said.
IOC Expects Golf Club Solution
On the controversy swirling around the Kasumigaseki golf club’s refusal to allow female members, Coates said he hopes IOC pressure on Tokyo 2020 and the club will help to bring a solution. "They tell me it’s heading in the right direction but our position is pretty firm. If it’s not, we have to go somewhere else," Coates said.
"This was the number one choice. They are not building a new course. This was the best. The club has already spent a fair bit of money improving the course in readiness. It always understood it would have to be gender equal," he added.
Golf club officials are set to discuss the issue at a meeting later this week.
The other major venue issue for Tokyo 2020 is the site for the new sports of skateboarding and sport climbing. "That’s the one we need to finalize. We understand where it is going but there are just some issues over the fish market relocation," he said.
Reports about the scaling back of test events follow a misunderstanding between the IOC and Tokyo 2020, he noted.
Games organizers had planned to hire some grandstands with the same capacity as the Olympics. The IOC has told Tokyo 2020 this is not necessary and will lead to increasing costs.
"We have said ‘you have misunderstood this. you do not have to do that’. It’s the field of play that’s the most important thing, the transport and all of those arrangements," Coates said.
Reported by Mark Bisson
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