June 2, 2016 / 12:42 PM / 4 years ago

Tokyo in seventh heaven with new sports

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (Reuters) - Organisers of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics were taken by surprise by the International Olympic Committee’s decision to approve a Japanese proposal and recommend the inclusion of five sports in four years’ time, Games chief Yoshiro Mori said on Thursday.

Yoshiro Mori, Japan's President of the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee, talks during a news conference in Tokyo, Japan, May 26, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

Speaking to reporters after a meeting with the IOC to monitor progress, Mori also said the Olympic body had no questions over a payment during its successful bid to host the 2020 Games that had triggered an investigation back home.

On Wednesday the IOC approved Tokyo’s proposal for five more sports, with baseball/softball, skateboarding, surfing, climbing and karate to feature at the Games in 2020.

The IOC must now rubber-stamp the decision at its session in Rio de Janeiro in August.

“We planned to make the presentation (for the new sports)... but the IOC took the decision when I was up in the clouds travelling from Tokyo,” Mori, a former prime minister, told reporters.

“I felt like a heavenly feeling. I felt like up in the clouds because it is a package approval.”

As part of reforms initiated in 2014, Olympic hosts can bring in sports popular in their countries to boost ratings as well as a younger generation of fans.

Mori said organisers would now start work on pinning down venues and would present progress reports during the IOC session in Rio.

“We will have to consult with the stakeholders,” Mori said. “We will have to bring something as a result of the work. We have to prepare.”

He said potential venues for all five sports had already been identified and presented to the IOC.

Mori rejected any link between his organisation and the alleged payments of more than $2.0 million to a Singapore bank account by the Tokyo bid committee before the Olympics were awarded to the Japanese capital.

Mori said the payments had nothing to do with his organising committee, formed after 2013 when Tokyo won the bid.

“In this organising committee there are no people associated with the bid committee activities,” Mori told a small group of reporters later on Thursday.

“I dare say he was also on the bid committee” Mori said turning to a colleague from the Tokyo Games communications department, also sitting at the table.

“But he did not have authority for such alleged payments. “Did you do that?” he asked with a laugh.

The account was controlled by a friend of Papa Massata Diack, son of disgraced former international athletics chief president Lamine Diack.

Tsunekazu Takeda, leader of the bid, has said the payments were legitimate consultancy fees, checked by auditors.

French authorities are investigating Diack senior for alleged corruption, and the Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) has launched its own investigation into the 2020 bid process.

The IOC said last week it saw no reason to doubt assurances from Tokyo about the legitimacy of payments.

Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; editing by Clare Lovell

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