Tokyo 2020 Tsukiji fish market move on ice, impacting Olympic plans

The delay means that a planned underground tunnel leading to an athlete's village was now off the table.

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Tokyo's Tsukiji fish market will stay where it is for at least a year play

Tokyo's Tsukiji fish market will stay where it is for at least a year

(AFP)
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Tokyo's Tsukiji fish market -- the world's largest -- will stay where it is for at least a year, the city's governor said Friday, in a move that could impact the 2020 Olympics.

The delay -- over concerns about toxic contamination at the new site -- means that a planned underground tunnel leading to an athlete's village was now off the table because it could not be built in time.

An above ground road would be constructed instead to ensure a "smooth" flow of traffic, governor Yuriko Koike said, as the megacity struggles to contain soaring costs linked to the Games.

Plans to uproot the more than 80-year-old market, a popular tourist attraction, have been in the works for years, with advocates citing the need for upgraded technology. The move was originally set for this month.

But in August, Koike said she would postpone the relocation until at least early next year, as she awaited final groundwater testing results at the new facility, a former gas plant.

Toxic contamination has been found at a proposed new fish market site play

Toxic contamination has been found at a proposed new fish market site

(AFP)

On Friday, Koike said there would be no move before the "winter of 2017 or spring 2018" depending on the results of health and environmental tests.

"There are many concerns, including the safety of the new site," she told reporters.

She also held out the possibility of scrapping the relocation altogether.

"We can't say now that the relocation...is guaranteed," Koike said.

Beyond building the road linking it to the planned athletes' village, it remains unclear what will be built on the piece of prime real estate where the market currently stands.

The controversial relocation plan has been marred by problems, including the discovery that contractors had inexplicably failed to fill in a basement at the new site with clean soil as a buffer against underground pollution.

The proposed new fish market would be 40% larger with state-of-the-art refrigeration play

The proposed new fish market would be 40% larger with state-of-the-art refrigeration

(AFP)

The local government paid a whopping 86 billion yen ($782 million) in cleanup costs, but experts said in a report recently submitted to Koike that levels of mercury detected inside the basement were above nationally set limits.

Koike has questioned the 588 billion yen in relocation costs -- more than one-third higher than earlier estimates -- to put the market on a site several kilometres away and build a modern facility about 40 percent larger with state-of-the-art refrigeration.

Tsukiji's wholesalers have voiced frustration over the delay, saying that postponing the move will cost them millions of dollars a month.

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