The postponed Tokyo 2020 Games must take place in 2021 or not at all, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) chief Thomas Bach has confirmed.
In an interview with the BBC published yesterday, Bach said Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said for the host nation 2021 was “the last option”.
“Quite frankly, I have some understanding for this, because you cannot forever employ 3,000, or 5,000, people in an Organizing Committee,” said Bach.
The Games were postponed by exactly a year as a result of the global coronavirus outbreak to July 23-August 8, 2021.
If it is not possible to hold them then, “the Olympics will be cancelled in that case,” organizing committee president Yoshiro Mori previously told Japan’s Nikkan Sports Daily.
Bach suggested the rescheduled Games could be a pared down event and did not rule out closing doors to fans.
Along with massive financial costs, the Olympic delay threw the sporting calendar into chaos with many sports being forced to postpone their own world championships to accommodate the Games.
And from the IOC’s point of view a further delay would eat into the build-up time for the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing and the 2024 summer Games in Paris.
“You cannot every year change the entire sports schedule worldwide of all the major federations,” Bach said. “You cannot have the athletes being in uncertainty.
“You cannot have so much overlapping with a future Olympic Games, so I have some understanding for this approach by our Japanese partners.”
Bach said a Games without fans was “not what we want” but acknowledged no one knows what the situation will be in 2021.
“I would ask you to give me some more time for consultation with the athletes, with the World Health Organisation, with the Japanese partners,” he said.
Virtually nothing is off the table including quarantine “for the athletes, for part of the athletes, for other participants,” in what Bach described as “a mammoth task, because there are so many different options that it’s not easy to address them [now].”
Medical experts in Japan have suggested the Games would be impossible without a Covid-19 vaccine with Kentaro Iwata, a professor of infectious diseases therapeutics at Kobe University, saying: “I don’t think the Olympics is likely to be held next year.
“Holding the Olympics needs two conditions — one, controlling Covid-19 in Japan, and controlling Covid-19 everywhere.”
Bach said the IOC was “relying on the advice of the World Health Organization”.
“We have established one principle: to organise these Games in a safe environment for all the participants. Nobody knows what the world will look like in one year, in two months.”
The IOC has pledged 800mn dollars to relieve the financial impact caused by the postponement. Japan is facing a bill which is expected to run to between 3bn and 6bn of dollars.
Predictably, who picks up the tab for what is cause for debate.
“The IOC and the Japanese side... will continue to assess and discuss jointly the respective impacts caused by the postponement,” the IOC said after initially claiming Japan would “cover the costs it would have done under the terms of the existing agreement for 2020.”
Regardless, it is clear there will be cutbacks to the Games.
“They will definitely be different, and they have to be different,” Bach said.
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