Japan strongly denied reports last week that it would consider canceling the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, already postponed last year due to the pandemic. But six months from the scheduled opening, big doubts persist.
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As the country, partially under a state of emergency, faces a violent third wave of Covid-19 infections, here are the main questions that arise about a possible cancellation.
Officials say Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga reiterated on Friday that he was “determined” to host the Games this summer, while a government spokesman assured that there was “nothing of real ”in the information of the British newspaper The Times, according to which Japan had already secretly given up on the event.
The President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Thomas Bach, himself said the day before that he had “no reason to believe that the Olympic Games in Tokyo will not open on July 23”, admitting however that a number limited number of spectators, or even a closed session, remained possible options.
The decision on the possible presence of the public, including from abroad, must be taken in the spring.
What do the athletes think?
Pressure from athletes was seen as the trigger for the postponement in March 2020, shortly before the historic IOC decision to postpone the Games by one year.
This time around, several National Olympic Committees announced that they were preparing to send their athletes to Japan as scheduled, and Greek Olympic pole vault champion Katerina Stefanidi – at the forefront of the athlete’s movement for the postponement last year – is in favor of maintaining the Olympic Games this summer, behind closed doors if necessary.
American gymnast Simone Biles also hopes the Games can take place, “even if it means being in a bubble”. Japanese gymnast Kohei Uchimura, however, felt that this would only make sense if Japanese public opinion, currently opposed to maintaining the Olympic Games this summer, was in tune.
How much would the cancellation cost?
The organizers reassessed in December the budget of the Olympics at 1644 billion yen (13 billion euros), or 2.3 billion euros more than the previous estimate, because of the costs of postponement and health measures .
The total addition is expected to be even saltier, arguably making Tokyo-2020 the most expensive Summer Olympics in history.
However, their cancellation would not really affect the world’s third largest economy. Because the necessary infrastructures have already been built and “the cost of organizing the Games is probably less than 0.1% of Japanese GDP”, explains Tom Learmouth of the research firm Capital Economics to AFP.
Certain sectors such as tourism and the hotel and catering industry would suffer from a shortfall in the event of cancellation, even if the doping effect of the Games on consumption is not obvious, even more so in a pandemic period.
What is the government’s room for maneuver Yoshihide Suga, Prime Minister since last September, has seen his popularity collapse because of his action deemed too slow and confused in the face of the pandemic.
While a large majority of Japanese are opposed to holding the Games this year, a cancellation would be less politically evil, said Tobias Harris, analyst at Teneo Intelligence.
“The political risk of organizing the Games and thus causing a worsening of the pandemic seems to me to be greater than that of admitting that their holding would be too dangerous and of working with the IOC on a more suitable solution”, judges Mr. Harris. .
The consequences for sport The IOC has considerable financial reserves which have enabled it to cope with the postponement of Tokyo-2020 last year, but experts believe that a cancellation would have disastrous consequences.
Many national and international sports federations would find themselves in financial danger, as some are very dependent on the money paid to them by the IOC.
Some athletes would see their hopes of participating in the Olympics dashed forever, and a cancellation could also weaken the image of the Olympic movement, when the number of candidate cities was already on the decline even before the pandemic.