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Editorial: New Tokyo Olympics start date offers a chance to tackle mounting problems

  • March 31, 2020
  • , The Mainichi
  • English Press

The Tokyo Olympics, which had been postponed from its original date in the summer of 2020 due to the new coronavirus pandemic, will kick off on July 23 next year and end with the closing ceremony on Aug. 8. Similarly, the Paralympics will also be pushed back for one year and will start at the end of August 2021.


The International Olympic Committee reportedly had also been seeking a way to hold the games in the spring of next year. However, there were concerns that if the postponed games were to be held in spring 2021, qualifying events and trials that had not been held needed to be completed by the early months of next year. With no immediate prospects for containing the spread of the virus, the decision was likely based on a belief that a summer Olympics would be safer.


The July 23 opening in 2021 will cause no changes to the days when events are held from the original opening date of July 24 this year. While concerns over an Olympics in the scorching hot weather have not been removed, the related parties apparently agreed on the date as the option with the least negative impact.


That being said, they cannot just simply slide the original plan to the new date. The basic premise to hold the games is still that the pandemic will have waned globally by the time of the games, which is no different from the spring Olympics proposal.


Infection preventive measures in places where people from around the globe gather — including the Olympic Village and event venues as well as hotels — need to be reconsidered.

It is crucial that organizers work together with medical institutions. They also need to plan ahead and consider what to do with an event if an athlete becomes infected and how to deal with such a case in the Olympic Village.


The calculation of the additional cost for the games and how it will be divided should be adjusted at an early stage. As the coronavirus outbreak is feared to very quickly cool the economy, any ideas that consider the extra cost for the Olympics as “a sanctuary” for budgeting cannot be accepted. Efforts should be made to cut any additional expenses, which are estimated to total hundreds of billions of yen — from fees to cancel the use of facilities and renting new venues to labor costs for the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games personnel. It is understandable that the name of the games, “Tokyo 2020,” will continue to be used as a way to hold down unnecessary expenditures.


The marathon and race walk courses have been changed from Tokyo to Sapporo, the capital of Japan’s northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido, due to mounting concerns over the severe summer heat in Japan’s capital, but there are other events that are also predicted to be held in the scorching weather. In light of reducing the physical burden on athletes as much as possible and considering the safety of spectators, the timetable of events should be thoroughly reviewed.


In addition, detailed care is required for the Olympic torchbearers and volunteer workers as well as ticket holders. There are many aspects that should be improved over the one-year postponement period. We ask the organizing committee to examine the problems once again and to thoroughly prepare for the games in 2021.

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