A decision has not yet been reached on rerouting the Olympic torch relay later this month around the city of Osaka, the president of the Tokyo Games organizing committee said Friday. "We are discussing with the Osaka prefectural government as well as the executive committee so we can come to a conclusion at our earliest convenience," Seiko Hashimoto said in an online briefing.
The mayor of Osaka and the governor of the prefecture said Thursday they wanted relay legs through the city on April 14 to be canceled because of rising cases of COVID-19. The relay started from northeastern Japan a week ago and is crisscrossing the country with 10,000 runners. It is to end on July 23 at the opening ceremony.
The relay is a test to see if organizers can pull off a large-scale event during the pandemic. Any failures will prompt more questions about the risks of holding the Olympics and Paralympics with 15,400 athletes entering Japan, accompanied by tens of thousands of officials, judges, coaches and media. Organizers said last month that fans from abroad would be barred from attending the Olympics and Paralympics.
Hashimoto has said repeatedly that a decision would be announced this month on maximum capacities at indoor and outdoor venues. On Friday, she hinted that decision might be delayed. "Within the month of April there may be some changing circumstances," she said. "But we would like to come out with an overall direction within this month. But at which point we would be able to make that direction, I am not able to say right now. We are in the middle of discussions right now."
Organizers are hoping to fill venues as much as possible with local fans. They had budgeted USD 800 million for income from ticket sales, but will be millions short because of the ban on fans from abroad. Any shortfall will have to be made up by Japanese government entities. The official cost of the Olympics is USD 15.4 billion, but several government audits suggest it may be twice that much. All but USD 6.7 billion is public money. Hashimoto said organizers had filed a "protest" with the weekly magazine Shukan Bunshun, which published 280 pages of leaked documents this week about planning for the opening and closing ceremonies.
Organizers asked that the material be removed from the "online version" of the magazine. Hashimoto said the leaked documents "contain secret information that needs to stay inside the organizing committee, which could eventually hinder the effective management of the organizing committee." Most of the documents seem to deal with internal communication and not with concrete plans for the ceremonies.
The magazine, in a statement on Friday, said it was operating in the public interest because taxpayer money was involved. "It is clear this (publication) does not constitute a violation of copyright or an interference with business operations," the magazine said. "We believe it is abnormal that an organization of public interest that is receiving taxpayer money would make this unusual demand.
We refuse to give in to such unjust demands and we will continue our coverage and reporting efforts." Gskuji Ito, chief financial officer of the organizing committee, speaking alongside Hashimoto, acknowledged spending on the ceremonies did involve public funds. "Based on the role assigned to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, we do have a portion of that kind of subsidy money in the operation and planning for the ceremonies," Ito said.