Tokyo Olympics Will Go Ahead With or Without COVID-19, IOC says

Tokyo’s postponed Olympics will resume next year, irrespective of the coronavirus pandemic, IOC vice
President John Coates said Monday to AFP, vowing to be the “Games that won COVID.”
The Olympics have never been canceled outside of the world wars, and Coates was insistent, speaking in an exclusive interview, that the Tokyo Games begin on their revised date.
“It will take place with or without COVID. The Games will start on July 23 next year,” said Coates, who heads the International Olympic Committee’s Coordination Commission for the Tokyo Games.
“The Games were going to be, their theme, the Reconstruction Games after the devastation of the tsunami,” he said, referring to a catastrophic earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan in 2011.
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“Now very much these will be the Games that conquered COVID, the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Because of the pandemic’s global march, the 2020 Olympics were postponed in
a historic decision, and are now scheduled to begin on July 23, 2021.
But Japan’s borders are still largely closed to international tourists, and it is months or even
years away from a vaccine, fueling speculation as to whether the Games are at all possible.
Japanese officials have made it known that a second time after 2021 they will not postpone them.
Coates said the Japanese government “haven’t dropped the baton at all” following the postponement, despite the “monumental task” of putting the event back a year.
“Now it’s been postponed by one year, that’s presented a monumental task in terms of resecuring all the venues… something like 43 hotels we had to get out of those contracts and renegotiate for a year later. Sponsorships had to be extended a year, broadcast rights.”
There are signs of a downturn in popular interest in Japan after a recent poll showed that only one out of four Japanese will like them to go ahead next year, with most endorsing either another postponement or cancellation.
“Before COVID, (IOC president) Thomas Bach said this is the best-prepared Games we’ve ever seen, the venues were almost all finished, they are now finished, the village is amazing, all the transport arrangements, everything is fine,” he said.
With much of the work ongoing, or completed, a task force was set up to look at the various possibilities in 2021 — from how border barriers will impact athletes’ movement, to whether fans will crowd sites and how to keep stadiums safe.
The party, consisting of officials from Japan and the IOC, first met last week.

IOC vice president John Coates is adament the Tokyo Olympics will go ahead Photo: AFP

“Their job now is to look at all the different counter-measures that will be required for the Games to take place,” said Coates, the long-time president of the Australian Olympic Committee.
“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 somewhere it is not.
“There are 206 teams… so there’s a massive task being undertaken on the Japanese side.”
On Friday, Tokyo 2020 chief Toshiro Muto repeated that organizers hoped to avoid a spectator-free Games — an option that has been mooted given that Japan still restricts audiences at sporting events.
While the country is slowly reopening its economy, with professional baseball, football, and sumo resuming in front of limited numbers of fans, a steady stream of new cases of coronavirus continues to the nation.
Japan has already plowed billions of dollars into the Olympics, further adding to the cost of the delay.
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Coates said the IOC was doing its bit, putting in “something like an $800 million extra to help the international federations whose income this year is not happening and national Olympic committee.”
Like Japan, the IOC, and thousands of athletes wait to see if next year’s Olympics are going ahead, the ceremonial games flame — the centerpiece of the abandoned torch relay — is on display in a museum in Tokyo.
A collection of giant Olympic rings, weighing 69 tons and measuring 15 by 32 meters, were towed away for repairs, and last month Tokyo’s National Stadium hosted the much lower-key Golden Grand Prix 2020 behind closed doors, rather than hosting Olympic track and field.

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