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TOKYO (AP) — A Tokyo Olympic official promised a clean games on Wednesday, pledging to improve water quality in the venue for marathon swimming and triathlon, and to ban four large Japanese construction companies that have been charged with colluding on bids.

Toshiro Muto, the CEO of the organizing committee for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, spoke following a meeting of the organization’s executive board.

Last year, E.coli concentrations were found to be 21 times above the accepted limit in the Odaiba area of Tokyo Bay, the venue for triathlon and marathon swimming.

Fecal coliform bacteria were also detected.

Officials have blamed much of the problem on heavy rains last year, a surprise sanitation problem in a country known for cleanliness. Organizers say underwater screens will be experimented with this year.

“We are going to put in place some special filtering screens in the water to shield any impurities,” Muto said. “We think that’s probably one of the effective measures we can take.”

Tests carried out last year showed water-quality standards required for marathon swimming were met on only 10 of 26 days — and only six of 26 days for triathlon.

Muto said organizers would “make sure that water quality is at a high level.”

The International Olympic Committee has mentioned water quality as one of Tokyo’s few problems.

The 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics were plagued by severe pollution in Guanabara Bay, the venue for sailing. Rio dumps much of its untreated sewage into the sprawling bay, and avoiding floating debris was a major problem for sailors.

Muto also said four companies that have been banned by the Tokyo metropolitan government for bid rigging would not be involved in future tenders on Olympic projects.

Tokyo prosecutors pressed charges Friday against the four companies for allegedly colluding on bids for a high-speed train line. The four builders — Taisei Corp., Kajima Corp., Obayashi Corp., and Shimizu Corp. — are also major contractors on Tokyo Olympic projects.

“For the time being, we will refrain from offering (new) contracts to the four companies,” Muto said.

Muto hedged slightly, saying the companies might be allowed to join new bidding if participation is needed to meet Olympic deadlines.

“The deadlines cannot be moved,” he said.

Muto said he hoped to hold an executive board meeting in July in Fukushima. The prefecture was devastated when a nuclear reactor was damaged during the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

The prefecture north of Tokyo is a venue for Olympic baseball and softball, and organizers hope playing games there will convince skeptics about safety.

“That will be a great opportunity for us to talk directly with the disaster victims and families,” Muto said, “and to look at the disaster area and the recovery.”


Associated Press writer Mari Yamaguchi contributed to this report.


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