No ‘plan B’ for Tokyo’s Olympics – Bach

International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach has today (Thursday) moved to reiterate there is “no plan B” for this year’s Olympic Games, amid mounting concerns over the staging of the postponed event in Tokyo.

The 2020 Games were officially postponed on March 24 last year as COVID-19 took hold, with the Olympics now set to take place from July 23 to August 8, followed by the Paralympics from August 24 to September 5.

As well as the considerable logistical challenges involved in rescheduling, local organisers have also had to contend with putting into place measures to address a resurgence of the virus, both in the Japanese capital and for athletes and visitors arriving from overseas.

A state of emergency is currently in place for Tokyo and 10 other prefectures, while a recent poll by Japanese news agency Kyodo showed that 80% of Japanese residents surveyed believe the Olympics should be cancelled or rescheduled, up from 61% in a previous survey conducted in December.

However, Bach told Kyodo today: “We have at this moment, no reason whatsoever to believe that the Olympic Games in Tokyo will not open on the 23rd of July in the Olympic stadium in Tokyo. This is why there is no plan B and this is why we are fully committed to make these Games safe and successful.”

Local organisers have already dismissed the possibility of another postponement, leaving only outright cancellation as the alternative option. Fan attendance is another key issue facing organisers, with Bach hinting at the possibility of reducing the number of spectators, adding the IOC has to be “flexible” and may need to make “sacrifices” to protect the lives of the people involved.

Bach stated: “As I said, the priority is the safety. When it comes to safety, then there can be no taboo.”

Earlier, long-time IOC member Dick Pound reaffirmed his belief that the Games can take place successfully without fans in attendance. The Canadian official said: “The question is, is this a ‘must-have’ or ‘nice-to-have.’ It’s nice to have spectators. But it’s not a must-have. Nobody can guarantee (that the Olympics will go ahead as planned). But I think there’s a very, very, good chance that they can, and that they will.”

Pound stated that six or seven options are under consideration, including that only Japanese citizens will be allowed to attend. He said: “It’s certainly one option…In the end, the decision will be based on risk. And the bottom line, they say, is that it’s better to have the Games, even if there are no spectators, than it would be to cancel them because there are no spectators.”

The official cost of Tokyo’s rescheduled Olympics has risen to $15.4bn (£11.2bn/€12.7bn) after the organising committee for the Games released its revised budget last month. The Tokyo 2020 organising committee unveiled its ‘version five’ budget in conjunction with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) and the Government of Japan. The budget comprised the OCOG budget, which is the responsibility of Tokyo 2020, and the other entities budget, which is the responsibility of the city and national governments.

Tokyo 2020 said the revised budget reflected the reduction of expenses arising from simplification measures that are being introduced amid COVID-19. The budget was an update on the version four budget announced in December 2019.

The total cost of the Games now stands at $15.4bn, including the OCOG budget of $6.7bn. The cost comprises the $12.6bn forecasted in the version four budget, plus the OCOG’s contingency fund of $300m and the additional costs due to COVID-19 of $2.5bn, including $600m of additional Paralympic Games costs.