TOKYO – Uncertainty gripping next year’s postponed Tokyo Olympics: Will there be fans or empty stadiums in 14 months? And how do thousands of athletes, staff and technical officials travel, be stationed and stay safe in the midst of COVID-19?
And Tokyo is not alone.
China – where the COVID-19 outbreak was first detected – will hold three major sporting events within a year after Tokyo will close.
The World University Games in Chengdu in western China opened 10 days after the close of the Tokyo Games, with up to 8,000 athletes. Next came the Beijing Winter Olympics which began on February 4, 2022, and the Asian Games in Hangzhou began on September 10. The previous edition of the Asian Games in Indonesia attracted 11,000 athletes and featured more sports than the Olympics.
The fourth major event, the Club 24 World Team Championship, will open in China in June 2021, but has been postponed due to scheduling conflicts caused by a pandemic.
China is the destination country for these big events, through the expertise gained from the 2008 Beijing Olympics and because it absorbs huge costs. It spent at least $ 40 billion to hold the 2008 Olympics, and there was no national debate because the authoritarian state banned voting or referendums.
Voters in Europe and North America have repeatedly said “no” to the referendum to hold the match. China landed the 2022 Winter Olympics when several European bidders withdrew. Beijing narrowly won the IOC vote against Almaty, Kazakhstan.
“Telling Bavarians or Swiss citizens that another Winter Olympics would be very beneficial for them is not successful,” Jonathan Grix, who studies sports policy at Manchester Metropolitan University, wrote in an email. He said voters felt that “citizens rarely benefited most from such events.”
“Authoritarian countries don’t need to ask the public, they don’t need to compromise with policies, there is no political opposition (by definition) and most shipping services are managed by the state, ensuring the smooth running of events,” added Grix.
Officials of the Japan and International Olympic Committees have provided few details about how the Tokyo Olympics will be staged, the cost of the delay, and who will pay for it. They have teased the problem and sent a tenuous solution. They have agreed on one thing: If the match cannot be opened on July 23, 2021, they will be canceled.
In a joint news conference last weekend, the director general of the World Health Organization warned it would not be “easy” to make the Olympics a safe global meeting place.
But Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus expressed his conviction: “I think that’s possible,”
IOC President Thomas Bach has been careful in speculating how the Olympics could be held. He suggested quarantine for athletes, hinted at limited fan access to the venue, and had not ruled out events in empty stadiums. Of course, he said that was not his choice.
IOC member John Coates, who oversees preparations for Tokyo, has been direct.
“We have a real problem because we have athletes who have to come from 206 different countries,” Coates said, speaking at the Australia News Corp digital forum and reporting in The Australian newspaper. “We brought in 11,000 athletes, 5,000 technical officials and trainers, 20,000 media.” There are also around 4,000 working on the committee and 60,000 volunteers expected. “
Some scientists in Japan and elsewhere believe that vaccines are needed to ensure safety for athletes. But some people ask whether young and healthy athletes should be a priority for vaccinations.
The biggest challenge might be ensuring the safety of fans who have bought millions of tickets. If there are no fans, will there be a refund? Will there be lawsuits? Tickets provide at least $ 800 million in revenue for local organizers with an additional delay fee estimated in Japan at $ 2 billion to $ 6 billion.
Eric Saintrond, CEO of FISU – managing body of the World University Games based in Switzerland – said in an email to The Associated Press that decisions regarding “safety and health will be taken” by the Chinese government. He said the final decision in this field “was not entirely in the hands of FISU.” He said all preparations were “on track.”
University Games spokesman Wang Guangliang was asked about housing for athletes, fans, and so on, but offered a little clarity, turning back to FISU.
“The impact of the pandemic is still unexpected and we are still studying the situation and need to discuss with FISU what should be done to reduce the impact and ensure the safety of all participants,” Wang wrote in an email to AP.
Delaying the Summer Olympics by one year has raised questions about marketing the Winter Olympics, which opened six months after Tokyo closed. Construction is on schedule, but sponsors may face challenges.
“Sponsors and game business partners must continue to invest extra money in their marketing programs to Tokyo if the game is postponed, potentially forcing them to reduce their budgets for the next Olympics,” Wei Jizhong, former secretary general of the China Olympic Committee, told China Daily.
The Associated Press sent an email question about preparations for Beijing 2022 to Juan Antonio Samaranch, IOC vice president who oversees Beijing’s preparations. He did not immediately answer the request, nor did he follow up. Beijing can also face the problem of quarantine athletes, fewer fans, and fear of spreading more viruses.
In an interview in February with China’s official Xinhua News Agency, Samaranch praised the preparations. He praised the Beijing organizer, President Xi Jinping, who heads the Chinese Communist Party, and the handling of the Chinese virus.
Sheena Greitens, who studies Asian politics at the University of Texas at Austin, said major sporting events gave China high visibility and “could make reporters focus on sporting events rather than asking them to use their time at home to explore other topics that might reflect poorly on the CCP (Chinese Communist Party). “
“They provide a way for China to increase its cultural strength and ‘discourse’ globally,” Greitens wrote in an email. “And they did it in a forum that generally emphasized international cooperation and was freed from the serious disputes that many countries have with China over territorial conflicts, human rights and trade, among other topics.”
Sports on 5/23/2020
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