Tokyo Olympics made 'complex' by risk of disaster, says IOC planner

An emergency evacuation notice is displayed near the under-construction New National Stadium, the main stadium for the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Carl Court/Getty Images

TOKYO, Sept 12 -- Planning for the Tokyo 2020 Games has been made harder because of the high risk of disasters in Japan, International Olympic Committee (IOC) member and top Tokyo planner John Coates said on Wednesday.

The reality of Japan's unpredictable nature was hammered home by a deadly typhoon and earthquake last week.

Western Japan was hit by the strongest typhoon to strike the nation in 25 years, then days later by an earthquake that paralysed the northernmost main island of Hokkaido and left roughly 40 dead.

The country also suffered through a summer of record-breaking heat and deadly, torrential rains that unleashed landslides and flooding.

Coates, who is chairman of the Coordination Commission for Tokyo 2020, admitted that the two disasters in the last week had been a bit of a reality check about the planning difficulties for what are already particularly complex Games to organise due to the largest number of sports and events ever.

"What happened last week and what happened in Osaka certainly have hit home to me -- and I know the Organising Committee -- about the further complexity of planning these games," Coates told a news conference, referring to a storm surge that submerged Kansai International Airport just off the western city of Osaka.

He said he knew organisers were taking the issue seriously and factoring it into their planning and scheduling.

"In Sydney, we had a simulation exercise one week of what could go wrong, but they were all disasters that we dreamed up: a train coming off the rails out in the Blue Mountains, someone bursting through and attacking one of the marathon runners. Those sorts of things," he added.

"But you don't have to dream anything up in this country, it's very sad to say."

Coates, who was in Tokyo for a two-day IOC project review meeting, said he was pleased with how things were shaping up, including deciding the last piece of event scheduling involving the swimming.

The finals will be held in the morning and the heats in the evenings -- a schedule that had been widely expected but drew protests from the Japanese Swimming Federation (JSF) in July, which expressed disappointment that local television viewers will not be able to watch finals in a prime-time slot.