Tokyo Olympic Games: How severe could a cancellation be for organisers and broadcasters?

Uncertainty is looming over whether the Tokyo Olympic Games will go ahead this summer, amidst the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The IOC (International Olympic Committee) and Japanese organisers rescheduled the games for July 23 to August 8 this summer after last year’s unprecedented postponement, becoming the first Olympics in peacetime to suffer that fate. However, many sceptics predict the Games will be abandoned altogether if the virus is not contained.

Cancellation could spell huge financial losses for organisers and broadcasters, who’d already contributed more than £9.3bn to the Tokyo Games before the pandemic struck.

The delay itself cost the Japanese organisers an additional 294bn yen (£2bn), while the IOC contributed $650m towards covering postponement costs.

Despite the angst and ambiguity clouding over the games, IOC President Thomas Bach stated a decision was yet to be made, after a meeting with the executive board last week.

“We just have to ask for patience and understanding, I think it is too early to decide anything else”, the German said.

“We’re not losing time or energy on speculation about whether the Games are taking place.

“Our task is to organise Olympic Games, not to cancel Olympic Games and that is why we will not add fuel to this speculation.”

There have been calls from the Japanese public to abandon the Games after a Kayodo News survey found 35.3% want the event to be cancelled and 44.8% favour another delay.  But it seems as though BBC Olympic & Paralympic correspondent Nick Hope believes the Games will go ahead as planned.

“All of the messages coming out of Tokyo are that the event will go ahead, so at the moment that’s how we have to look at things”, Hope says.

“I’m confident it’ll go ahead because the implications for it not happening are huge for Tokyo 2020 as an organising committee, the Japanese government and the IOC.

“The IOC have insurance specifically for this and have increased their protection for this year’s games, as oppose to when it was supposed to happen.”

There have also been concerns for broadcasters such as the BBC losing large sums of money as a result of cancellation. However, Hope says there are procedures in place to compensate financially.

“From a financial perspective as a broadcaster, we haven’t spoken about the implications a great deal. We’re pretty confident with contracts and things that are in place, for example the IOC would have a way of reimbursing us, but at the moment it’s very much up in the air as to what will happen.

“We’ve got to remember there are still five and a bit months to go and a lot can change in that time.”

With worries that the Games could worsen the country’s pandemic, Hope confesses he’d be shocked if international fans were allowed to attend.

“At the moment I think they’re gearing up to a plan where there won’t be international fans, although there might be a way of getting domestic Japanese fans into the environment, so the virus can be controlled there.

“I’d be very surprised if they do allow international fans because the Olympics and Paralympics do have the potential for being super-spreader events.”

Only time will tell before an announcement is made regarding the Games, but what is for sure is that if they do go ahead, it’ll be an Olympics like never before.

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