Japan faces race against time with 2020 Olympics just 200 days away

The Games has been postponed by a year due to Covid-19 with the task to get 15,000 athletes into Japan safely for the Olympics and Paralympics

Stephen Wade
Monday 04 January 2021 11:35
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Japan Olympics Tokyo Rings Return
Japan Olympics Tokyo Rings Return

There are now just 200 days until the postponed Tokyo Olympics and the clock is ticking with plenty still to be finalised regarding the navigation of the Covid-19 pandemic.

With 200 days to go, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga addressed the nation and admitted he could call for a state of emergency following an alarming spread in coronavirus cases. And though Japan is yet to call a lockdown, Suga is tasked with maintaining the economy and avoiding unnecessary health risks.

Tick-Tock-Tick.

It's nearing deadline time for Tokyo Olympic organizers, the International Olympic Committee, and various Japanese government entities as they try to pull off the Games in the middle of a pandemic.

Officials have promised to announce concrete plans early in the new year about how to get 15,000 Olympic and Paralympic athletes into Japan; about the safety of the Athletes Village, and hundreds of thousands of fans, media, judges, officials, broadcasters and VIPs.

The new year is here.

Suga pledged again to hold the Olympics, saying it would be "proof that people have overcome the coronavirus." And he said vaccine approval would be speeded up by a month so that vaccinations could begin in February instead of March.

Japan has attributed more than 3,400 deaths to COVID-19, modest by global standards for a country of 125 million, but worrying as new cases rise quickly. A poll last month by national broadcaster NHK show 63% want the Olympics postponed or canceled.

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike and the governors of Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa prefectures asked the national government Saturday to declare the state of emergency after the capital saw a daily record of 1,337 new cases on New Year's Eve. That marked a jump of almost 400 in just a few days.

Yoshiro Mori, the president of the organizing committee and a former prime minister, again ruled out any cancellation of the games in an interview several days ago with the Nikkan Sports newspaper. He was asked when a decision would come about having local fans or fans from abroad.

"Sometime from March through May," he replied. "The final deadline for a decision would be May, but it may come sooner."

Any reduction in fans will hit the organizing committee budget. Tokyo has budgeted $800 million for ticket sales, and any shortfall will have to be made up by government entities, which are footing most of the Olympic bills.

The official budget for the Tokyo Olympics was increased last month to $15.4 billion, an increase of $2.8 billion because of the delay. However, several government audits the last few years suggest the real number is about $25 billion.

All but $6.7 billion is public money.

Mori indicated the opening ceremony, scheduled for July 23, could be troublesome with thousands of athletes and officials gathering to parade around the stadium. He also suggested the ceremony couldn't be shortened, since television broadcasters had paid for the lucrative time. He said some officials might be cut out of the parade.

Television determines much of the Olympic scheduling, and selling broadcast rights accounts for 73% of the IOC's income. Another 18% is from large sponsors such as Coca-Cola and Toyota.

The torch relay, which begins on March 25, will also face crowding with 10,000 runners expected across almost four months. Coca-Cola and Toyota are the prime sponsors.

AP

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