Why it is Impossible to Postpone or Cancel Tokyo 2021 Olympics
The year 2020 is not finished yet but it had its share of unexpected announcements and successive measures. So, we should know better than to try foretelling what might happen in a world where Covid-19 🦠 is looming.
However, for several reasons we will explain below, and against all pessimistic predictions, we are convinced that Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games 🏅, although they were postponed by one year, will actually take place in summer 2021.
The sport events calendar’s requirements
When were Tokyo 2020 Olympics initially scheduled?
At first, the 4th Japanese Olympic Games were scheduled in 2020, from Friday, July 24 to Sunday, August 9.
Paralympics Games were scheduled two weeks later, from Tuesday, August 25 to Sunday, September 6.
What is Tokyo 2020’s new schedule for 2021?
The new dates were announced at the end of March 2020:
- Olympic Games will take place in 2021, from Friday, July 23 to Sunday, August 8, and,
- The Paralympic Games from Tuesday, August 24 to Sunday, September 5.
Why postponing again is impossible
The International Olympic Committee has already stated that a new delay was not conceivable.
The reason to this is simple: these XXXIIth Games being a summer competition, postponement must therefore be made to another summer. And Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games are already scheduled from Friday 4 to Sunday 20 February 2022, a mere 6 months after the end of Tokyo 2021!
And it is of course unimaginable to further delay 2020 Games:
- In 2022, it would be the same year as winter Olympic Games and following them;
- In 2023, it would make a 3 year-delay and only one year left before Paris 2024 Summer Olympics.
Humoungous costs and consequences
How much do Tokyo 2021 Olympic cost?
Despite 2013’s bidding dossier that mentioned a ¥800 billion (~$7, 3 billion) budget, the current cost of 2020 Olympics was officially estimated at ¥1,35 trillion (~$12 billion).
The financing of the Olympics comes from:
- 55% public funds (~$7 billion), that is to say, from taxes payed by Tokyo inhabitants and generally speaking Japanese citizens;
- 45% private funds (~$5.6 billion) collected by the organizing committee, from, for example:
- Ticket sales; and,
- IOC’s contribution.
According to a Japanese government’s audit made at the end of 2019, this sum is likely to be largely underestimated: the total cost may actually amount to more than twice the official costs, namely, up to $30 billion.
For example, Tokyo has spent ¥810 billion (~$7.4 billion) for Olympic-related projects.
The cost of the postponement, which adds to the expenditure, is estimated at about ¥300 to ¥600 billion (~$2 billion to~$6 billion).
Among the unexpected spending, what immediately pops to mind, is the Olympic village in Odaiba, whose final owners were supposed to move in after the end of the Olympics in September 2020.
Therefore, with all the investments undertaken, as well as the cost increased by the postponement, how to imagine all these efforts merely "thrown away?"
What are the economic stakes?
It is a well-accepted fact that Olympic Games are a bottomless financial pit for organizing cities. The last four summer games costs were indeed massive:
- Athens 2004 (~$11 billion) ;
- Beijing 2008 (~$36 billion) ;
- London 2012 (~$13 billion) ; and,
- Rio 2016 (~$19 billion).
But what makes the difference between Tokyo and said organizing cities, is that the latter had already reached a threshold regarding touristic attendance when they held their games.
Japan, on the contrary, saw an acute increase of touristic frequentation since 2013 (a gradual double-digit growth), and has certainly not fulfilled its hosting goals yet, nor its maximum capacity. Thus, before Covid, Japanese government foresaw 60 million tourists in 2030, when 2019 already saw the visit of 32 million.
The organization of Tokyo Olympics thus encompasses many implications:
- Direct and indirect job creations, even if Japan has been close to full employment for years.
- Next years’ touristic revenues, as travelers tend to explore more than Tokyo, especially thanks to the excellent JR Pass network.
- A trickle-down effect on the country, thanks to tourism industry takeoff (retailers, restaurants, accommodations, travel agencies), that has been suffering since March 2020, in the global current recession.
There is actually no other option for Japan
Previously cancelled Japanese Olympic Games
As we said above, Tokyo 2021 should be Japan’s 4th Olympic Games.
The last Summer Olympics in Japan took place in Tokyo in 1964, to help turn the page on WWII and show a country striving to the future and technologically oriented.
But summer Olympic Games should have taken place in Japan earlier, as the competition was once scheduled in 1940, and was expected to show a country recovered from 1923’s Great Kanto Earthquake. They were however cancelled due to the warring context and especially the Second Sino-Japanese war started in 1937.
In the history of modern Olympic Games, no competition was cancelled due to a pandemic. So, the cancellation of Tokyo 2020 would be a first and highly improbable!
The issue of borders’ opening
IOC has already warned that no Olympics could be held in a host country whose borders are not open to travelers from around the world, to respect the Olympian principles and values.
Japanese borders, presently closed until further notice, cannot reopen too close to the beginning of the Olympic Games, for organizational issues.
A logical flow of events would be to gradually reopening to tourism (first from Asian, then Western countries) from Autumn 🍁 2020, with all the more reason that Japanese government has already decided to offer Covid-19 vaccine to all its residents by … mid-2021!
Moreover, Japan has been considering for months the easing of visa delivery and / or immigration procedures for the 11,000 athletes who shall come to Japan for their preparation. They should be exempted from self-isolation upon arrival.
The greatest challenge: Japan’s image in the world
Even if some media relay surveys made with questionable methods (for example with a small selected sample of Tokyoites who are not favorable to the Olympics Games), Japanese government and Tokyo Metropolitan Government have already worked on several scenario. One of those implies to limit the number of spectators on site, for "simplified" Games (with, for example, a limitation of seating in stadium, with physical distancing), which will not prevent the international aspect of the competition.
As for Japan, what is at stake is much more than local considerations. It is a huge bet on the archipelago’s image in the world:
- The goal is to turn the page on the Great East Japan Earthquake, and the subsequent tsunami that caused the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Disaster in March 2011.
- In addition, the aim is to look toward the future despite the hard times of Covid-19 that began in early 2020.
- Lastly, Japan’s needs to reestablish its attractiveness as far as business is concerned, as it was the only G7 country that mercilessly closed its doors to foreign residents for more than five months!
But above all, after the success of the Rugby World Cup in autumn 2019, or the well-known and appreciated civic-minded attitude of Japanese people in stadiums, what could be better than an international sport event followed by more than 1 billion viewers to show a strong image of Japan to the world?
So many reasons that make us think that Japan cannot abandon these so long-awaited Olympic Games.
Official confirmations – On September 7, 2020, IOC vice-president, John Coates, confirmed our analysis in an interview to AFP: he announced that Tokyo Olympics will take place in 2021 "with or without Covid," and regardless of the evolutions of the global health crisis, as reports this article from BBC.