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Thursday, September 13, 2018, 14:30
Threat of typhoons, earthquakes reality for Olympic planning
By Associated Press
Thursday, September 13, 2018, 14:30 By Associated Press

John Coates, chairman of the IOC Coordination Commission for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics leaves from the venue of the IOC and Tokyo 2020 joint press conference Sept 12, 2018. (EUGENE HOSHIKO / AP PHOTO)

TOKYO - An IOC inspector working on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics said Wednesday that a powerful typhoon and a deadly earthquake that hit Japan in the last 10 days have been a wake-up call for organizers.

The most powerful typhoon in 25 years left 11 dead in the Osaka area of western Japan when it struck Sept 4. A few days later, a deadly earthquake hit the northern island of Hokkaido and killed about 40.

John Coates, an Australian who heads the inspection team, said what happened "has hit home to me."

Coates helped organize the 2000 Sydney Olympics. He said organizers there simulated disasters.

"You don't have to dream anything up in this country," he added. "It's very sad to say."

He said disaster preparation "is being factored" into the planning.

The other uncontrollable problem could be Tokyo's searing heat, which set records this summer with temperatures soaring regularly over 38 degrees C (100 degrees F).

Coates, an International Olympic Committee member, said that body favored going onto daylight saving time.

"It does seem a very good solution to us," Coates said.

Yoshiro Mori, a former Japanese prime minister and head of the local organizing committee, has asked the Japanese government to consider moving the clocks forward.

Japan does not change its clocks as many countries do.

Mori has turned down suggestions of switching the games to October when temperatures are cooler. The 1964 Tokyo Olympics were held in October.

Organizers also confirmed what was long known: the swim finals will be held in the morning, as they were in Beijing in 2008.

John Coates (left) chairman of the IOC Coordination Commission for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics and Tokyo Olympic organizing committee President Yoshiro Mori attend the IOC and Tokyo 2020 joint press conference Sept 12, 2018. (EUGENE HOSHIKO / AP PHOTO)

This is primarily to accommodate the American broadcaster NBC, which will telecast the finals live during evening viewing hours in North America.

There is some local resentment of scheduling events to accommodate foreign broadcasters.

Finals are scheduled from 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. local time. Preliminary heats will be from 7-9 p.m. local time. The first final will be the men's 400-meter individual medley on July 26.

"It's in the morning, but it's 10:30 or 11. That's not abnormal hours," said Koji Murofushi, a former Olympic gold- and silver-medalist in the hammer throw, who is the games sports director.

Organizers also announced plans to start recruiting 80,000 unpaid volunteers. A Japanese reporter told Coates there was some criticism in Japan about using volunteers.

"They are hinting that it is similar to forced labor," she said.

An Associated Press study several years ago showed that using unpaid volunteers saved the IOC at least US$100 million, maybe more.

"Volunteers are volunteers," Coates replied. "And they don't have to apply if they don't want to."

The IOC generates almost US$6 billion in income over a four-year Olympic cycle. Coates explained 90 percent of the money goes back to national Olympic bodies, sports federations and local organizers.

"The economics of it necessitates having to have volunteers," Coates said. "They get trained, they get their uniforms. They are part of something very exciting."

He added: "I think it's a fine model ... and I don't think there's a case for paying volunteers."

IOC members receive per diems of between US$450-900 when they are on Olympic business, and other generous perks like paid lodging at top hotels.

In other business, organizers announced the Olympic torch will be kindled on March, 12, 2020, in Greece. The handover ceremony to Japanese organizers is set for March 19 with the torch arriving in Japan on March 20.

The flame will be displayed in three northern prefectures hit by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami until March 26 when the relay begins from the Fukushima region and runs across Japan's 47 prefectures.

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