Organisers of Tokyo 2020 have quietly started drafting possible alternatives to holding the Olympics this summer, two sources familiar with the talks said, in contrast to the Japanese government's stance that postponement is not an option, as reported by Reuters.
Despite the coronavirus outbreak, Japan has been adamant in holding the Games on time. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is hoping for a boom in tourism and consumer spending, keeping at-risk $3 billion in domestic sponsorship, an Olympic record, and some $12 billion spent on preparations.
“Finally, we have been asked to make a simulation in case of a postponement,” said one of the sources, an official close to the organising committee who is involved in drafting the scenarios.
Reuters report suggests both sources spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to the media.
“We are making alternative plans - plan B, C, D - looking at different postponement time-frames,” said the official, adding the scenarios included cost estimates for different delays.
Neither Tokyo 2020 organisers nor the International Olympic Committee (IOC) immediately responded to a request for comment. The government of Japan could not be reached for comment.
The options, which include scaling back the Games or holding them without spectators, would be debated by the organising committee at the end of March, the official said.
The second source, who is also close to the Tokyo 2020 organising committee, confirmed that postponement was being discussed, including delays of one or two years.
Some organising staff were holding out hope for a delay of a month or 45 days, said the official involved in drafting the scenarios. A final decision on postponement will have to come from the IOC but Japan's stance also matters.
The IOC and its powerful chief, Thomas Bach, say the Games will go ahead as planned, drawing criticism from all over the world.
According to Reuters, Two other insiders, both senior members of the Tokyo 2020 organising committee, echoed those concerns. One of them, a board member of the organising committee, said the decision to postpone should be made quickly.
“The more they push the decision away ... more and more preparations have to be made - this will cause cancellation fees to go through the roof,” the board member said.
Bach recently appeared to shift his tone, saying the IOC was “considering different scenarios”.
The official involved in drafting scenarios said a long delay could spark complaints from older athletes and require keeping sponsors on board for longer. Another headache is the Olympic village, due to be converted to flats after the Games.
The summer 2021 calendar is already crowded while 2022 will see the soccer World Cup and the Beijing Winter Olympics.
Japanese sponsors are nervous, company representatives have said privately. Major sponsors include Toyota Motor Corp and Panasonic Corp.
“Of course companies are individually discussing what to do,” said a representative of one of the more than 60 sponsors. “No one wants to be the first to say anything about the possibility of a postponement.”
In Tokyo, there is a sense delay may be inevitable. Finance Minister Taro Aso has compared Tokyo 2020 to the 1940 Olympics cancelled by World War II, and the boycott of the 1980 Moscow Games. “It's a problem that's happened every 40 years,” he said. “It's the cursed Olympics - and that's a fact.”