Tokyo 2021 could be downsized
TOKYO, Japan (AP):
The Japanese public is being prepared for the reality of next year's postponed Olympics, where athletes are likely to face quarantines, spectators will be fewer, and the delay will cost taxpayers billions of dollars.
In the last several weeks, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach has given selected interviews outside Japan and hinted at empty stadiums, quarantines and virus testing.
IOC member John Coates, who oversees Tokyo preparations, said a few weeks ago in Australia that the Tokyo Olympics face "real problems," partially because of the numbers involved: 15,400 Olympic and Paralympic athletes to start with, and then staff, officials, media, and up to 80,000 volunteers.
The stark message about a very different, reduced Olympics is now being floated in Japan by politicians, and in unsourced news stories. The themes include the possibility of reduced seating at the Olympics -- if any fans at all -- tests for all athletes, fans and staff, and a quarantine-like situation at the Athletes Village.
In the hours before an online news conference yesterday with Tokyo Olympics spokesman Masa Takaya, Japanese media published several versions of virtually the same story, citing unnamed sources: Next year's Olympics will be "downsized," "simplified," or "very different".
Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto has been open about slashing costs and "reducing service levels".
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, in yesterday newscasts, sounded the same tune.
"We will move ahead with the items that should be streamlined and simplified," she said, giving no details on the downsizing, and adding that the public would be consulted.
"First of all, we need to gain the understanding of Tokyo residents and the Japanese people," she said.
But in the news conference, Takaya did not substantiate any of the leaked information and said it did not come directly from him.
One typical report said Olympic seating could be reduced, leaving in limbo the disposition of millions of tickets already sold.
"We want to brush away these concerns," Takaya said, speaking to worried ticket holders.
However, he offered nothing concrete except to say that "countermeasures" against COVID-19 will not be determined until this fall. That would include plans for fans, quarantines, and so forth.
Tickets are going to be a battleground. The organising committee has budgeted income of at least US$800 million (J$113 billion) from ticket sales, and may be reluctant to return it. The tickets carry a force majeure clause, which may permit organisers to avoid refunds.