TOKYO (Reuters) - International Olympic Committee (IOC) Vice President John Coates said on Friday he was pleased with Tokyo's preparations for the 2020 Summer Games, especially trimming more than $2 billion (£1.54 billion) from costs, and pledged that organisers would work for still more cuts.
In September last year, a Tokyo city government panel had warned expenses could balloon to 3 trillion yen. That would have been some four times the estimate Tokyo had made when it won the bidding in 2013, and prompted a worried IOC and local organisers to form a working group on cutting costs.
Figures released last month showed organisers had trimmed budget estimates to 1.685 trillion yen ($15.7 billion) including contingencies, from 1.8 trillion yen in their initial budget unveiled in December.
"We're very pleased, as you know ... we've been able to save 2.2 billion U.S. (dollars) on the revised construction budget," Coates told a news conference at the conclusion of several days of meetings with Tokyo 2020 organisers and city officials.
"But that's not to say that we're not continuing to work with our partners to identify further savings. Savings for tax-payers is very high among our priorities."
Among areas that Coates said could be the targets of further cuts were the costs of the temporary overlay, as well as the planning of venues with international federations. Cost cuts could also potentially be made in the international media centre.
"It's important for the IOC, because we want to ensure that these are not only the best Games, but these are Games that can serve as a model as to prudent costing for future Games and encourage future bids," he said.
Four cities dropped out of the race for the 2024 games due to cost concerns, and the IOC is worried that soaring costs could deter future bidders.
The meetings included visits to the sites of several venues, including the Olympic Village and the New National Stadium, where construction was delayed by decisions to switch designs in order to cut costs - and which Coates said would be ready by deadline in November 2019.
Coates sidestepped questions about transportation between the athletes' village and venues, which has been complicated by delays in deciding to move Tokyo's Tsukiji fish market, throwing construction of a key road and tunnel into doubt.
Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike has vowed that the road will be completed, but Yoshiro Mori, president of the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee, called for clarification by the time of the next IOC visit, in December.
"Is it really possible to dig a tunnel? What is the completion date?" he added.
Reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty