The International Olympic Committee and organizing committee of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics said Thursday they have begun assessing the additional costs of the yearlong postponement of the games and are now focused mainly on securing all 43 venues for summer next year.
The two parties agreed that the revised plan for 2021 should mirror in key ways the existing plan for 2020, with a particular focus on the venue and competition schedule that was fixed before the games were postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“A few weeks ago we agreed to postpone the games to 2021,” John Coates, head of the games’ coordination commission, said during a virtual press briefing.
“Today (the IOC and Tokyo organizers) held an executive project review meeting and agreed on a framework that will govern our preparations as we move forward to the new dates,” he said.
Organizers said the details of shifting the plan from 2020 to 2021 are being examined this month “with a view of establishing a new road map for the games” by May.
“On this basis, the Japanese side will be requesting from the various planned venue owners that they organize the games according to the schedule that we have already established in 2021, and they’ll be seeking the understanding and cooperation of those venue holders,” Coates said.
Tokyo organizing committee President Yoshiro Mori clarified that those talks are under way but declined to say when the negotiations would conclude with the operators of the 41 competition venues, Olympic Village and press center.
“The various venues involved have different contracts and owners,” Mori said. “Some are private, some public, so I don’t think it is right to put a deadline on this. We have to deal with the parties concerned in an elaborate, cautious manner.”
Tokyo organizing committee CEO Toshiro Muto revealed that the Tokyo metropolitan government is the main party in consultation with the 11 companies involved with the construction of the Olympic Village. Muto said the companies were “amenable” to the delay but nothing has been finalized.
The Tokyo Olympics will now take place from July 23 to Aug. 8, 2021, followed by the Paralympics from Aug. 24 to Sept. 5. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced the postponement of the Tokyo Games on March 24, a week before the new schedule was revealed.
Coates called Abe “a very, very smart man” for postponing the games and speculated he may have been eyeing a possible economic stimulus in the wake of the financial downturn caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
In order to reduce the burden of the additional costs caused by the postponement, the IOC and organizers said they have set up joint and separate task forces aimed at exploring opportunities to “optimize and streamline the scope and service levels at the games.”
Coates said they will consider “the must-haves” and the “nice-to-haves” when attempting to cut costs and the scope of the games but assured that “nothing would impact the quality of competition” and that “all of the athletes’ services will remain the same.”
While the death toll due to the coronavirus pandemic continues to rise across the globe, Coates said it was “too early to say” if the outbreak could further impact the games, including another delay or banning spectators.
Tokyo has seen an increase in coronavirus infections since late March, with Abe declaring a state of emergency for the Japanese capital and six other prefectures to curb the spread of the virus. A government official said Thursday that Abe has decided to expand the state of emergency to the entire nation.
In his closing statement, Coates reiterated the organizers’ beliefs that next summer’s games “can stand as a beacon of hope to the world during these troubled times and that the Olympic flame can be the light at the end of the tunnel in which the world finds itself at present.”