‘Tokyo Olympics will be held at all costs’


Tokyo 2021 update Sept 2020 and high costs Image: paralympic.org

The Vice-President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), John Coates, has said that the Tokyo Olympic Games will go ahead in 2021 irrespective of the fact whether COVID-19 continues with its monstrous form or die out.

Speaking to mediapersons, Coates said that the IOC was committed to hosting “the Games that conquered COVID” and that the Olympics would go ahead “with or without Covid”.

He added that the theme of the 2020 Games was going to be “‘the Reconstruction Games’, after the devastation of the tsunami” which rocked Japan in 2011. “Now very much this will be the light at the end of the tunnel,” he went on.

The above comments were made in the aftermath of the first meeting of the three-party council – of the Japanese Government, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee – that was set up to produce “robust countermeasures” to the pandemic to allow the Games to proceed in a smooth manner to the extent possible next summer.

That will involve a “simplified” version of the Olympics, with Coates having previously stated that the IOC is still targeting having fans in attendance, though only where this can be achieved safely for spectators, organizers and athletes.

The next meeting of the task force will focus on that as well as issues of transportation and border control, with the Japanese Government still at a loss how the pandemic might affect athletes coming into the country to compete and whether they might be expected to quarantine on arrival.

“Their job now is to look at all the different counter-measures that will be required for the Games to take place. Some countries will have it [Covid] under control, some won’t. We’ll have athletes therefore coming from places where it’s under control and some where it is not. There are 206 teams, so there’s a massive task being undertaken on the Japanese side,” added Coates.

Coates’ comments follow those of IOC President Thomas Bach earlier this year, who said that the Games will either happen next year or not at all, with no further postponement beyond 2021 possible.

Costing a bomb

A study from the University of Oxford claims the Tokyo Olympics are the most expensive Summer Games on record, with expenditure set to increase further due to the one-year delay.

The study carried out by academic Bent Flyvbjerg, says the cost of the Games so far is $15.84bn. Flyvbjerg expects several billion dollars more to be incurred due to the one-year suspension. The bill exceeds that for the 2012 London Olympics, the previous most expensive Summer Games at $14.95bn.

When Tokyo won the bid in 2013, organizers predicted the expenses would stand at $7.3bn.

Media reports stated that the IOC said it had not seen the Oxford study and declined to comment beyond referring to another study by varsities in Mainz (Germany) and the Sorbonne (France) which said the Tokyo costs were in line with other giant projects.

Flyvbjerg further told mediapersons, “They (IOC) obviously don’t like our results, but it’s very difficult to counter a piece of rigorous research like this… And they haven’t done that, and they can’t do that. Our research is a problem for them.”

He added, “The Olympics offer the highest level of risk a City can take on …The trend cannot continue. No City will want to do this because it’s just too expensive, putting themselves into a debt that most Cities cannot afford.”

Flyvbjerg’s report, titled ‘Regression to the Tail: Why the Olympics Blow Up’, is due to be published on September 15th.

Vaccine ‘not required’

A task force comprising Government officials, disease experts and Japanese Olympic officials has said a vaccine is not a requirement for holding next year’s Games.

The organising committee CEO Toshiro Muto said, “A vaccine is not a requirement … The International Olympic Committee and the WHO already discussed this matter. It’s not a condition for the delivery of the Tokyo 2020 Games. A vaccine is not a requirement. Of course, if vaccines are developed we’ll really appreciate it. And for Tokyo 2020 this will be great. But if you ask me if that’s a condition, it’s not a condition.”

Muto was speaking after the first of five meetings planned for the task force over the coming months to address the various challenges posed by rescheduling the Games. The body will deliver an ‘interim summary’ by the end of the year.

Media reports stated that Kasuhiro Sugita, Japanese Government Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary said, “While living with the coronavirus, we need to make sure that athletes can perform at their best and audiences enjoy the games safely. To achieve that, we will adjust border controls, testing and medical systems and the operations of the venues.”

Muto said the organizers were aiming for organizing the Games with fans’ attendance.

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