The long-awaited Tokyo Olympics, which were supposed to have taken place in the Summer of 2020 but were postponed to July and August of 2021, shouldn’t go on this year, according to an official of the London Olympic Games.
Sir Keith Mills, who was the former chief executive of the Summer 2012 Games, told interviewers from BBC Radio 5 that at this point, due to several factors, it is “unlikely” that the Games in Tokyo will go on as planned in 2021.
He then went on to encourage the Japanese to pull the plug on the Games, which had been nearly ready to take place last year before the pandemic occurred, saying “It’s not just the infections in Tokyo, it’s the infections in all the competing nations.
“The challenge is whether enough competitors and enough countries can visit Japan and make it a really viable Games.”
Ongoing surge in Tokyo
Sir Keith said that due to the fact that there is another surge ongoing at present, plus the fact that the Paralympics, involving people who often suffer from medical conditions that would put them at extra risk, means that Tokyo organizers should “make plans for a cancellation.”
Just two days ago, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga pledged to the world that the Tokyo Games would indeed be held, despite the fact that a recent Kyodo News poll in the country showed that a whopping 80% of the Japanese public believes that the Olympics should not take place this year.
And a Japanese cabinet minister shares that sentiment. Taro Kono, the Japanese Minister of
Minister for Administrative Reform and Regulatory Reform, told reporters this week that the Games could indeed be cancelled and that the situation at present “could go either way.”
Because of the postponement that took place this past year, the cost of hosting the Games has gone up by 22 percent, to an eye-popping 12,981,662,093 euros. On top of that are costs associated with the extra security needed at the facilities, and renegotiated contracts, amounting to another 2,370,984,000 euros.
Another aspect of the situation that must be dealt with, Sir Keith pointed out, is that because of the pandemic, it is nearly impossible for any organization on the globe to be able to afford the cost of cancellation insurance.
Yet another wrinkle which may tip the scales in favor of a second postponement is the fact that the Olympics are now tied to the Paralympics — with that major event now scheduled for August 24 to September 5 this year.
As Sir Keith told interviewers: “We shouldn’t forget the Paralympics. Many of the competitors have underlying health conditions so flying around the world competing will be a challenge for them.”
“I would be making plans for a cancellation”
“I think they’ll leave it to absolutely the last minute in case the situation improves dramatically, in case the vaccinations roll out faster than we all hoped. It’s a tough call,” he added.
“Personally, sitting here looking at the pandemic around the world, it looks unlikely I have to say.
The London 2012 official, who is now the chair of the Invictus Games for injured military veterans, then declared “If I was sitting in the shoes of the organizing committee in Tokyo, I would be making plans for a cancellation and I’m sure they have plans for a cancellation. They’ve got another month or so before they need to make a call.”
The Summer Olympic Games constitute the largest event in the world, bringing together more than 11,000 athletes from more than 200 countries around the globe — and Japan’s borders are still closed at the present time due to the pandemic.
Must go ahead “at any cost”
Japanese Olympic Minister Seiko Hashimoto stated recently, however, that the Games Olympics must go ahead “at any cost.”
“Everyone involved is working together to prepare and the athletes are also making considerable efforts towards next year,” she stated on Tuesday.
“We have to hold the Games at any cost. I want to concentrate all our efforts on measures against the coronavirus.”
She had earlier admitted to interviewers from Nikkei Asia that strict rules for both athletes and spectators would be implemented in order to hold safe Games.
These may include restricting athletes in the Olympic Village and the sporting venues.
“Protecting yourself will result in protecting other athletes as well,” Hashimoto said at the time.
She added that she hoped Japan could create opportunities for athletes to partake in and learn about the culture of their host country without having to leave the Olympic Village. “Hosting online events about Japanese culture is one of my ideas,” she noted.
Bach says further postponements are not an option
In 2020, International Olympics Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach told reporters from the BBC that the next Olympics would have to be cancelled if it could not hosted in the Summer of 2021.
Acknowledging that such an eventuality would be a “tragedy”, Sir Keith stated that of course all the hundreds of national Olympic committees and sports federations would therefore suffer major financial impacts from a cancellation because “many of them rely almost entirely on the money the Games generates.
“So if you’re running badminton somewhere in South America, suddenly your funding disappears and your sport is under significant threat so the knock-on effect of this — not just in Tokyo — but all around the world, shouldn’t be underestimated. It is massive.”
“If the games don’t happen it’ll be a huge economic blow to the IOC.”
The London organizer recalled the enormous expansion of infrastructure in the city’s East End, spurred by the hosting of the 2012 Summer Olympics, which has proven to be an economic engine in and of itself.
In addition, he stated, “The prestige, the spotlight on Japan and Tokyo — they’ll lose that if they have to cancel, which would be tragic.”