Tokyo Olympics FAQs: Games On? Cancellation Possible? Insurance?

Tokyo Olympics FAQs: Games On? Cancellation Possible? Insurance?

Olympic Sports

IPL – Suspended.
NBA – Suspended.
Premier League – Postponed.

Sports leagues across the world have ground to a halt due to the rapid spread of coronavirus and now, the big question in the world of sports remains: Are the 2020 Tokyo Olympics on?

On they are, yes. But for how long? When does a final call get made about the event? Who makes the final call? How much is at stake if the event is cancelled? Is cancelling the only option or can the game be postponed?

Well, let’s try to answer some of these questions.


Are The Olympics On?

Yes. The opening ceremony is slotted for 24 July and International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach and even Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have said denied even entertaining any thought of cancellation.

That was on 5 March. Since then though, countries have shut borders, athletes have tested positive for coronavirus and all qualification tournaments have been cancelled.

The new line followed by Bach, as of 13 March, is that the IOC will be following the WHO’s recommendation. The world body that has declared the COVID-19 a pandemic.

Tokyo though, remains insistent the games are on track, from the head of the Organising Committee to the Prime Minister making statements every few days. They after all, have the most at stake.

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Is Postponing an Option?

Seems easy enough, right? Postponing the Games if we don’t know for certain if the July date can be followed?

Well, Donald Trump thought so as well.

“Maybe, and this is just my idea, maybe they postpone it for a year.”
Donald Trump, US President

Now, what is of more concern – a postponed Olympics or the fact that you and Donald Trump has similar thoughts? Well, that’s a decision for later but returning to the US Prime Minister’s comment, the Tokyo Games organisers, at least, are having none of it.

“The IOC and the organising committee are not considering cancellation or a postponement – absolutely not at all.”
Seiko Hashimoto, Japan’s Olympic Minister

And the reason that postponing may, in fact, not even be an option open to the Games’ organisers is that the two-week window when they event will be played out has been decided years ago, with tournaments and leagues around the world scheduled around it.

There is also, the most important factor, of the broadcaster to consider – US network NBC has paid $1 billion for the rights to the Tokyo Olympics and with the NBA, NFL, tennis Grand Slams and golf Majors, and many other events lined up for later in the year, finding another two-week window may not be as easy.

Now if they were to postpone it by a year or two – it could also clash with the upcoming Winter Olympics or the football World Cup in 2022.

Is Cancellation the Only Option?

If things don’t improve, then yes.

Because unlike the Premier League or the IPL that can close doors to fans, the Olympics will see over 11,000 athletes and more support staff coming together in the Games village itself.

So, will the Organisers choose to put so many people at risk? Or will they refuse participation to countries like an Italy or a Spain or a China – that are reporting the maximum casualties so far?

Or is Tokyo ready to take the risk of opening their borders once again to lakhs of tourists even if the coronavirus threat starts to subside by July?

However, even as recently as Tuesday evening, the IOC remains adamant the Games are on.

“The position of the IOC has not changed. With 19 weeks before the Opening Ceremony, the many measures being taken now by authorities all around the world give us confidence and keep us fully committed to delivering Olympic Games that can bring the world together in peace.”
IOC Media Relations Team to IANS

The Olympics have, however, been cancelled before. Three times, in fact, but they were all called off during times of war – World War I and II.

A cancellation will have also massive financial consequences.

In this 25 February 2020 file photo, a man walks in front of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building adorned with large banners promoting the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo. 
In this 25 February 2020 file photo, a man walks in front of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building adorned with large banners promoting the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo. 
(Photo: AP)

How Much Money Is at Stake?

A lot!

According to a national government audit, Tokyo is spending $28 billion on these Olympic Games, all of which will see no returns if the event gets called off.

There is also nearly a billion dollars in ticket sales that will be lost.

Television broadcast rights and sponsorship deals comprise 91 percent of the IOC's income. In the Rio Olympics cycle – the IOC had an income of $5.7 billion. All of this will be lost.

However, all involved parties are insured. The IOC paid $14 million to insure the Rio Olympics so they can be expected to collect a big return this time round, if the event is to be cancelled.

Japan though, will suffer the biggest loss. While they may be insured against the loss of ticket sales, a massive chunk of their spendings have been on stadiums and infrastructure, returns for which would have come in the form of tourism. Meaning a lot of money lost.

When Do We Get a Final Decision?

With so much at stake, it may be understandable that the IOC is not jumping the gun on announcing any decision about the Games, until they really must.

Dick Pound, the longest-serving IOC member had stated last month that a May deadline should be set to make a final call on the Games.

“In and around that time (May), I’d say folks are going to have to ask: ‘Is this under sufficient control that we can be confident about going to Tokyo or not?’”
Dick Pound, IOC Member

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While his statement was heavily criticised by the IOC and the organisers, because they’re not really considering a second option, it does make sense. If the Games are to go ahead by 24 July, then by early-June latest, a call should be made if the wheels need to get in motion. The 11,000 athletes need time to prepare for the Games, make arrangements for travel, the village needs to be readied, broadcasters need to set up their equipment.

Who Makes the Final Call?

Like one Japanese Minister suggested, can the games be held anytime in 2020?Because that’s what their contract says.

Not really. Because any date change or cancellation is completely out of Japan’s hands.

The Host City Contract, signed between the IOC and the city of Tokyo and the Japanese Olympic Committee – gives all decision-making powers to the IOC.

Under the heading 'Termination', clause 66 of the official Tokyo 2020 host city contract – the IOC has the right to terminate the Games because of “a state of war, civil disorder, boycott... or if the IOC has reasonable grounds to believe, in its sole discretion, that the safety of participants in the games would be seriously threatened or jeopardized for any reason whatsoever.”

Like a deadly virus that has spread across the world and claimed thousands of lives.

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