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Editorial: Detailed Tokyo Olympics policy needed amid coronavirus pandemic

  • July 23, 2020
  • , The Mainichi
  • English Press

July 23 marks exactly one year until the start of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, which was postponed by a year due to the spread of the novel coronavirus.


The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games plan to simplify the games. Among at least 200 measures under consideration are reducing the number of people taking part in the games and reviewing related events. However, a detailed policy hasn’t been drawn up yet.


In the meantime, problems over simplifying the games are surfacing one after another.


The IOC has stated it does not intend to hold the games without spectators. Tokyo organizing committee head Yoshiro Mori revealed that the opening ceremony cannot be scaled back due to broadcasting rights and airtime.


Currently there are no plans to review the number of athletic events or athletes. As of now, the Tokyo Games will include a record 33 sports and a total of 339 events.


There are also concerns about the budget ballooning once more. While the total expenditure of 1.35 trillion yen (about $12.6 billion) was disclosed at the end of last year, it is expected that additional costs will total over 300 billion yen (about $2.8 billion). This expenditure will likely further swell, as coronavirus prevention measures are now essential at venues and the athletes’ village.


The Tokyo and central governments have invested a massive sum of money in coronavirus countermeasures, and have no financial leeway. But if they do not thoroughly cut down on expenses, in the end the Japanese public will have to cover the cost.


During the recent Tokyo gubernatorial election, several new candidates urged for the cancellation or postponement of the Olympics and Paralympics. In opinion polls conducted by various media outlets, those who believe the games can be held next summer are in the minority.


Some athletes have even decided to retire due to the one-year postponement. This indicates how difficult it is for athletes to keep up their motivation while being unable to make predictions on when qualifiers and trials for Olympic berths will be held. Therefore, concrete plans should be made as soon as possible to help athletes feel at ease.


Though limiting the number of spectators will have an impact on ticket revenues, IOC President Thomas Bach has hinted that this scenario must be considered.


Preparations must be made in case the development of vaccines and remedies for the novel coronavirus aren’t completed before the Tokyo Games. There is a need to think about placing restrictions on the number of spectators.


Through the use of online interaction and virtual footage, it should be possible to convey the virtue of the Olympics and Paralympics. In times of difficulties, where it is hard to have an outlook of when the infections will come to an end, authorities should present a new image of the Tokyo Games held amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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