Decision on new sports for Tokyo Games put off until 2016

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TOKYO (AP) — The final decision on which new sports will be added to the program for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics won't be made until August 2016 — a year later than originally planned.

Wrapping up a two-day meeting in the Japanese capital, IOC Vice President John Coates said the inclusion of new sports will be voted on at the IOC session in Rio de Janeiro on the eve of the 2016 Games.

"While we were thinking originally the additional events timetable could be completed in July (2015), that is too ambitious," Coates said. "In the interest of transparency, that is too tight a timetable."

Baseball and softball, dropped after the 2008 Beijing Olympics, are considered favorites to return in 2020 because of their popularity in Japan and the existence of first-rate facilities.

Under the IOC's "Olympic Agenda 2020" reforms approved in December, host cities can propose the inclusion of one or more events for their games.

Several other sports are also lobbying for a spot on the Tokyo program. They include squash, karate, roller sports, skateboarding, surfing, wushu, rock climbing, and billiards and snooker.

Coates said by the end of this April, assessment criteria of each proposed new sport will be prepared. Tokyo organizers will then have time to examine the material before proposing which additional events they wish to add by September of this year.

"The whole world is looking at this process, not just the people of Japan," Coates said. "Many sports are interested and this is going to be a very transparent process."

Tokyo organizers recently formed an "additional event program panel" to study the proposed new sports. The panel will hold its first meeting next week.

"Tokyo has its wish list and the timeline is fine for us," Tokyo organizing chief Yoshiro Mori said. "We have already consulted with a number of (sports) federations."

Coates stressed that future Olympic sports events "must be attractive to youth."

"Universality and gender equality are key in selecting new sports or events but the IOC will also consider an up and coming sport that is gaining in popularity especially with youth," Coates said.

Coates was in Tokyo as head of an IOC "project review" of the city's Olympic preparations.

During the meetings, Tokyo organizers brought the IOC up to date on several proposed venue changes, which are aimed at saving money and avoiding white elephants.

The IOC reforms could allow Tokyo organizers to alter their initial plan of having the majority of venues located within an 8-kilometer (5-mile) radius of the Olympic Village — one of the key components of the city's bid for the games.

Mori said organizers plan to propose that an existing equestrian facility in the middle of Tokyo — which was used for the 1964 Olympics — will be used instead of a new facility. Mori also said organizers are considering holding the cycling events at an existing facility in Izu, which is about a one-hour train ride from Tokyo.

Tokyo also plans to build a permanent gymnastics venue rather than a temporary one, Mori said.

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