By Jack Tarrant
TOKYO (Reuters) - Tokyo 2020 organisers remain confident of being able to handle the logistical challenge of transporting tens of thousands of volunteers, athletes and media around one of the world's busiest cities when the Olympics rolls into town in 21 months' time.
Their belief in delivering on the promise comes despite delays in the relocation of the Tsukiji fish market, partly to accommodate a transport hub designed to ease congestion in the Tokyo Bay area, where the majority of Games venues are located.
The 83-year-old iconic market is set to move to a new $5 billion facility in Toyosu on Oct. 11, although more than 80 percent of Tsukiji traders remain opposed to the plan, according to a survey by a group fighting the relocation.
The scheme has been delayed on numerous occasions since it was conceived 17 years ago. In 2016, toxic substances were found in soil and groundwater at Toyosu, once home to a gas plant.
However, in July, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike declared the new site safe after experts signed off on additional clean-up measures.
The delay in moving the market has meant initial plans, involving a tunnel to be constructed under the site linking many Tokyo 2020 venues, have been abandoned.
With the change of location now confirmed, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) and Tokyo 2020 organisers can finally begin working on building new transport links they say will be completed by March 2020.
"The original plan, the initial plan, was already revamped and shifted to the new plan," explained Tokyo 2020 spokesman Masa Takaya on Wednesday.
"We understand that schedule is absolutely right on track. In that respect, Tokyo 2020 has no concerns."
A TMG spokesman added that the current road network will have to be utilised to substitute for the abandoned tunnel plan.
RING ROAD TWO
The TMG have previously said that the most recent delays have not had an impact on the March 2020 deadline, when they hope to have completed the proposed above-ground 'ring road two'.
The highway, which is also set to have a designated Games lane, will link several venues to the Athletes Village located near the existing Tsukiji market in Tokyo Bay.
"Tokyo 2020 is planning to use the site of the Tsukiji fish market for a transport depot during the Games," Takaya added.
"The location of the current Tsukiji market is an ideal place, only two kilometres away from the Athletes Village. This place will offer 15 hectares for the transport depot."
According to a TMG spokesman, the terminal will be the main location for storing and maintaining competition vehicles, as well as a gathering point for the hundreds of drivers needed to transport Games officials around Tokyo.
Unlike at previous Games, there will not be an Olympic Park, so with venues spread out across the city, planners have been forced to work around an already densely packed transport network.
"In the past, transport planners were able to have the benefit of Olympic Park operations but our Games plan is different from those," Takaya said.
"The venues are located in the city centre so we are very keen to work with city authorities and the government to provide the best possible transport services to all stakeholders for the Games by leveraging the existing transport network."
It remains unclear how the site will be used after the Games, with the TMG yet to announce its complete long-term plan.
(Reporting by Jack Tarrant; Editing by John O'Brien)