Coronavirus pandemic

Tokyo Olympics can be a model

As Tokyo marks one year to go until the rearranged Games, there is no doubt these Olympics will live long in the memory. But organisers are desperate it is for the right reasons.
The Olympic rings outside the National Stadium in Tokyo continue to draw visitors despite the Games' postponement. A poll has revealed that under a quarter of Japanese are in favour of the city holding the Olympics in 2021.
The Olympic rings outside the National Stadium in Tokyo continue to draw visitors despite the Games' postponement. A poll has revealed that under a quarter of Japanese are in favour of the city holding the Olympics in 2021.PHOTO: REUTERS
The Olympic rings outside the National Stadium in Tokyo continue to draw visitors despite the Games' postponement. A poll has revealed that under a quarter of Japanese are in favour of the city holding the Olympics in 2021.
TOSHIRO MUTO, Tokyo Olympics organising chief executive.

Organisers say successful delivery of Summer Games a possible example for future events

TOKYO • Tokyo Olympics organisers are preparing to host the Games next year even if the global coronavirus pandemic has not eased substantially, organising committee chief executive Toshiro Muto told Reuters on Tuesday.

The Tokyo Olympics had been scheduled to start tomorrow but were postponed to 2021 because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Since then, the organisers have been scrambling to rearrange the event and ensure it is safe for athletes, officials and supporters next year.

Muto said that although it is hoped the threat posed by the virus could be reduced, nobody knows what the situation will be when the Games start on July 23, 2021.

Organisers are assuming the coronavirus will remain a problem.

"It is rather difficult for us to expect that the coronavirus pandemic is contained," he told Reuters.

"But if we can deliver the Games in Tokyo with coronavirus, Tokyo can be the role model for the next Olympic Games or other various international events.

"By delivering the Games successfully in Tokyo, we strongly hope that can create a legacy that is in the history of mankind."

The postponement of the Games, which were already set to cost more than 1.35 trillion yen (S$17.45 billion) before they were delayed, will incur additional costs for the organisers.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has estimated the rearranged Games will cost it an additional US$800 million (S$1.1 billion) but Japan has been less forthcoming in giving exact figures.

Muto said the final figure would not be known until December but hoped that bringing on new sponsors would help bridge the gap.

"I know that businesses are in dire circumstances but still there are companies who say they want to sponsor the Games," he said. "It is a bright piece of news."

 
 
 
 

Tokyo 2020 announced yesterday that Tokyo Skytree, the tallest tower in the world, is joining as a new Games sponsor.

SETTING A PRECEDENT

If we can deliver the Games in Tokyo with coronavirus, Tokyo can be the role model for the next Olympic Games or other various international events.

TOSHIRO MUTO, Tokyo Olympics organising chief executive.

He also said he hoped all of Tokyo 2020's current sponsors would extend their contracts until the start of the Games next year, although this will come at a cost.

A poll conducted by Japanese public broadcaster NHK last month found more than 60 per cent of Tokyo 2020's corporate sponsors were undecided on whether to continue their support.

"We are hoping that there will be additional contributions (from existing sponsors) in terms of sponsorship fee because of the postponement of a year," Muto said.

A recent poll conducted by Kyodo News also found that fewer than one in four citizens favoured holding the Games next year.

Muto said meetings would be held with members of the Japanese government and the local Tokyo Metropolitan Government on how best to rebuild support for the Games.

Among the options that have been floated for a Games held during a pandemic is the possibility of limited spectators, or holding the event behind closed doors.

But organising committee president Yoshiro Mori said the absence of fans was not an option for now.

"If it's the only way to do it, then it's something we'd have to consider. If that happens, there might be talk of cancellation," he said during an interview with NHK yesterday, without elaborating.

Japan has so far reported 26,300 Covid-19 cases with just under 1,000 deaths, but Tokyo has seen an increase in cases recently and the country's borders remain largely closed to overseas visitors.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 23, 2020, with the headline 'Tokyo Olympics can be a model'. Print Edition | Subscribe