Coronavirus: No cancellation or postponement for Tokyo Olympics

For organisers and IOC, the Games will open on 24 July as scheduled. There are many economic interests at stake. Broadcasting rights and sponsorship represent 91 per cent of the IOC's revenue. The Japanese government will prolong event cancellations for another 10 days.


Tokyo (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The coronavirus epidemic will not impose any change of plans for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, which will open on 24 July, as scheduled.

This morning Yoshiro Mori, president of the organising committee, held a press conference to counter recent rumours about a possible postponement. "There is no plan now to change our plans," he told reporters.

A statement yesterday by Haruyuki Takahashi, a member of the executive board of the organising committee, had caused some stir.

Takahashi had said that cancelling the Games was “out of the question” because the International Olympic Committee's finances would be endangered without TV broadcast revenues. However, he suggested postponing them for a year or two because of the coronavirus threat.

“I have spoken to Mr Takahashi and he has apologised,” Mori noted. “He certainly said an outlandish thing.”

Games organisers and the IOC have repeatedly said that the Games will respect the scheduled opening date, as will the Paralympics, which will open on 25 August.

The contract signed by the IOC and the host city stipulates that an Olympiad can be cancelled, “if the IOC has reasonable grounds to believe, in its sole discretion, that the safety of participants in the Games would be seriously threatened or jeopardized for any reason whatsoever.”

If the IOC decides to cancel, it would notify the host city of its decision and the contract with the host city would be revoked if the situation does not improve within 60 days.

The contract also states that Japan would be forced to abandon its right to seek compensation for the damage caused by the cancellation.

The IOC has a reserve fund of about billion to tide it over until the next Olympics, and also carries cancellation insurance.

A possible postponement raises questions about more than 3,000 flats being built for the Athletes Village. Those units are to be sold off after the 2020 Olympics and are expected to go for high-end prices.

The village is to house 11,000 Olympic athletes and 4,400 Paralympic athletes and would not likely be available.

Any delay would also affect broadcasters like US network NBC, which is paying more than US billion for the rights to the Tokyo Olympics.

The same is true for sponsors. Broadcasting rights and sponsorship account for 91% of the IOC income.

The modern Olympics began in 1896 and have been cancelled only in wartime.

Meanwhile, as of 1.30 pm today, the number of coronavirus infections in Japan rose to 627, after another seven cases were reported earlier in the day.

An additional 696 people from the Diamond Princess cruise ship have been infected, plus 14 people who returned from China.

Twenty-three people have died. Sixteen of them were infected in Japan and seven on the cruise ship.

Hokkaido Prefecture has the most cases with 118, followed by Aichi (104), Osaka (80), and Tokyo (73). Kanagawa has 46 cases and Hyogo has 41.

The confirmed infections include 11 health ministry and quarantine officials.

The ministry said that as of Wednesday, 40 patients were in serious condition. Fourteen of them had been on the Diamond Princess cruise ship.

About 475 people have recovered and left hospitals through Wednesday.

The Japanese government has taken various steps against the new coronavirus, including school closures and event cancellations.

An expert panel will issue an assessment on 19 March on how effective these measures have been. For now, the government plans to keep them in place for another 10 days at least.