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Olympics: S. Korea ‘surprised’ by 2020 Games relocation reports

Seoul (AFP): South Korean sports officials voiced surprise on Wednesday at reports that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was considering moving some 2020 Tokyo Olympic events to the country.

Japanese media outlets reported Tuesday that the IOC was looking at relocating the rowing and kayaking venue to the South Korean city of Chungju in North Chungcheong province to rein in soaring costs.

The report came as IOC chief Thomas Bach and Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike met in Japan’s capital for the first time since Koike warned of drastic cost-slashing measures for the 2020 Games that included downsizing or shifting some venues.

A Seoul sports ministry official who handles international sporting events said there had been no contact from the IOC about using a South Korean venue.

“We were surprised because the reports came out of the blue,” said the official.

The Korean Olympic Committee (KOC) was also unaware of any relocation plan.

“But if the IOC were to make a proposal, they would probably contact the potential venue directly,” a KOC official told AFP.

Both officials declined to be named because they were not authorised to speak to the media.

Kim Myung-Gyu, a Chungju City Hall official in charge of water sports, said he had received no communication from the IOC, but stressed that the city was more than ready to take on some Olympic events if called upon.

“We already have the facilities so all we need is a few months for minor adjustments,” Kim told AFP.

Chungju has hosted a handful of major international rowing competitions in recent years, including the 2013 World Rowing Championships and the Asia Oceania Olympic Qualification Regatta ahead of the Rio Olympics.

Tokyo’s preparations for the 2020 Games have been plagued by controversy since beating Madrid and Istanbul in the bidding race three years ago.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe tore up initial plans for the Olympic stadium amid public anger over its $2.0 billion price tag.

Tokyo organisers then had to scrap the original Games logo after accusations of plagiarism.

Most worryingly, French prosecutors launched an investigation into $2 million in payments they suspect were made to help Tokyo secure the Olympics.

Japanese Olympic officials have strenuously denied any wrongdoing.