Sat | Apr 4, 2020

New Tokyo date to be decided

Published:Friday | March 27, 2020 | 12:13 AM
The new national stadium, a venue designed for the opening and closing ceremonies for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, is seen prominently at the background in Tokyo, Japan, on Wednesday.
The new national stadium, a venue designed for the opening and closing ceremonies for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, is seen prominently at the background in Tokyo, Japan, on Wednesday.

TOKYO, Japan (AP):

The Tokyo Olympics need new dates for the opening and closing ceremonies in 2021.

Nothing much can get done until those dates are worked out by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the Japanese Government and Tokyo organisers.

“We must decide this soon, otherwise it will be hard to decide on other things to follow,” Toshiro Muto, the chief executive officer of the organising committee, told his 30 senior directors – all men but one – seated in a large meeting room yesterday.

Two days after the unprecedented postponement was announced, the group gathered for the first meeting of what is being called the ‘Tokyo 2020 New Launch Task Force’. They must put the Olympics back together after they were torn apart by the coronavirus pandemic.

Muto and the president of the organising committee, Yoshiro Mori, each gave speeches. Mori, an 82-year-old former Japanese prime minister, drew on war memories from his youth to summon the resolve to redo in a few months what was seven years in the planning.

He talked of his father going “to the war in the Pacific” and leaving a rugby ball and a baseball glove behind for his young son.

“I’m sorry, I’m an old person and I talk about the old days,” Mori said. “I’m comparing this to the old days and I might be criticised by the media. However, this is the emotion I have inside me and this is the emotion I have as we face the predicament in front of us.”

Muto ran off a condensed string of issues to be resolved: ticketing, security, venues, merchandise, accommodation, the Athletes Village, transportation and lining up unpaid volunteers. He added he was looking at “thousands of contracts” and the interests of broadcasters, sponsors, the IOC, world sports federations and national Olympic committees.

“I didn’t imagine at all we’d be tested to this degree,” he acknowledged.

MASSIVE EXPENSES

He also voiced another reality.

“Additional expenses are going to be quite massive we assume,” Muto said.

The Japanese financial newspaper Nikkei has estimated added costs due to the delay of US$2.7 billion (over J$366 billion). This would go on top of an official budget of US$12.6 billion (over J$1.7 trillion). A Japanese national audit agency, however, says the actual amount of spending is about twice that size.

IOC President Thomas Bach said Wednesday that “all options are on the table” for new dates. He said next year’s Olympics don’t have to be restricted to summer in the Northern Hemisphere and might occur sooner.

Two of the marquee Olympic events – track and swimming – have already scheduled their own world championships for July and August of 2021.

If the Olympics are moved into spring, when it’s cooler in Tokyo, they clash with the end of the European football season. In North America, they would bump into Major League Baseball, NBA basketball, NHL hockey and possibly even college basketball. That’s assuming normal sports schedules resume by then.

“The postponed Olympic Games will need sacrifices,” Bach said.

Hidemasa Nakamura, the games delivery officer, was pressed again on dates.

“That’s something we haven’t decided on yet,” he said. “We have no idea when we will be able to finalise the dates. We don’t have a fixed plan how to proceed from here.”