Should we maintain the Tokyo Olympics?

At the time of Covid, it is difficult for the moment to imagine oneself in a stadium filled with spectators from all over the world. And yet, the Olympic and Paralympic Games are scheduled this summer, from July 23 to August 8, then from August 24 to September 5. So is it reasonable to consider holding them in the current context? On December 15, the governor of Tokyo, Yuriko Koike, indicated that she did not see “No scenario” which could lead to the cancellation of the Games.

→ READ. Spectators at the Tokyo Olympics? The IOC President believes in it

However, since the end of the year, the situation has worsened. On January 7, the Japanese Prime Minister declared a state of emergency in the Tokyo area; and on January 12, Japan said it had discovered a new strain of the virus on its soil. The Olympic and Paralympic Games therefore appear to be a logistical and health challenge, with more than 11,000 athletes from 206 countries expected.

Budget increased by 2.3 billion euros

Nearly 80% of the Japanese are now against their retention. The organization turns into a nightmare for the land of the rising sun, which relied heavily on the sporting event to improve its international image. “Japan wanted to move forward following the tsunami. It was a call for air to be able to welcome the entire planet to a new Japan ”, explains Éric Monnin, sports sociologist and director of the Center for University Olympic Studies and Research.

The Olympic Games are a showcase for the host country which can highlight its social, environmental or technological progress. And for this, the organizers are making considerable investments. On average, 50% of the funding comes from local and national taxes. The postponement of the 2020 edition by one year has already increased the budget by 2.3 billion euros. The total cost of the 2020 Olympics is now estimated at 13 billion euros, the highest budget in the history of the Summer Games. “The Games always come at a higher cost than what is expected. It is very rare that the income earned compensates for the costs incurred, analysis Wladimir Andreff, President of the Scientific Council of the Observatory for Sports Economics (OES) at the Ministry of Sports. With or without the Games, there will be costs for Tokyo. But the costs are incurred, while the income is long overdue. ”

“An economic disaster” in the event of cancellation

A cancellation would have major financial consequences, with the reimbursement of tickets sold, the removal of television rights or the refund of fees paid by sponsors. This is why, for the moment, neither the International Olympic Committee (IOC) nor Japan are considering this hypothesis. “The IOC’s budget is mainly made up of the revenue it derives from the organization of the Olympic Games. If there are no Games, it is an economic disaster for the IOC, their economic existence depends on it, explains Wladimir Andreff. I bet on the fact that the Games will be maintained, even in bad conditions, to ensure a minimum of income. “

Besides the economic aspect, what to say or what to do in case of cancellation for the athletes who have been training for four years to participate in this competition, which often represents the goal of a sportsman’s life? 57% have already obtained their entry ticket for the competition.

The IOC and the Organizing Committee are considering any possibility that would allow the Games to be maintained while guaranteeing health security. Among the measures envisaged, the limitation of travel during the fifteen days of the competition for the athletes and their supervisors, massive tests on entry into the country and then throughout the competition, or the priority vaccination of athletes before the start of the competition. ‘summer.

Another hypothesis: the ban on … shouting for spectators, with the risk of losing the festive atmosphere. “The Olympics are a celebration of humanity, a global celebration where everyone meets. It’s a great chance that they can organize themselves today, perhaps in an unsatisfactory form, but at least they are organizing. It will be like in 1948, after the Second World War, not something very festive, but the Games of a new world, post-Covid ”, considers Éric Monnin.

Final answer in April

Success in organizing the Olympics in the midst of a pandemic would have a very strong symbolism. They would bring some entertainment in these gloomy times. “We could rediscover familiar emotions, vibrate other than through the prism of fear and uncertainty”, details Carole Gomez, research director at the Institute of International and Strategic Relations (Iris), specialist in questions of geopolitics of sport. The IOC has indicated that it will definitively decide whether or not to continue the event in April.

Its cancellation would be a first in peacetime. “It would create a precedent, and other reasons could be put forward later to cancel the Olympics. It is also a fear. We must not forget either that the next edition is coming very quickly: from 2022 with the Winter Games in Beijing. If Tokyo 2021 is canceled, all eyes will be on this edition and the wait will be even higher ”, evaluates Carole Gomez. In any case, the disruptions of the 2020 edition will inevitably have consequences for the organization of the next Games, Paris 2024 in the foreground.


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