Delaying the Olympics by a year has sparked fear over costs and a lack of clarity about where the funding will come from.
The Chief Executive of the Tokyo Olympics on Thursday promised “transparency” to the Japanese public about the cost of postponing the Games to next year. Despite no clear indications by the organisers or the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on the added costs, estimates range from $ 2 billion to $ 6 billion.
“It is very likely that the costs will be higher than the budget initially planned,” the CEO Toshiro Muto said during a weekly teleconference on Thursday.
While admitting to not having clarity on the exact amount, Muto promised that they will ‘be transparent and explain the costs to taxpayers.’ Under the terms of the host city contract signed in 2013 when Tokyo was awarded the Games, the city of Tokyo, the Japanese Olympic Committee and local organisers are obliged to pay most of the costs of the Games. That includes the unprecedented delay caused by the pandemic.
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The idea of spending more for the Olympics -- especially considering the current crisis -- has been a sensitive issue in Japan. It is a matter so sensitive that the IOC faced criticism from the Tokyo 2020 organisers and the Japanese government after saying Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, had agreed to bear the brunt of the costs of delaying the Olympics to 2021.
Tokyo organisers took the unusual step of demanding the IOC remove a comment from its website quoting Abe apparently agreeing to cover the extra costs, with spokesman Masa Takaya saying it was ‘not appropriate for the prime minister’s name to be quoted in this manner’.
Japan, like many countries, is possibly looking at a deep recession next year in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic and spending public money towards organising the multi-sport event may provoke harsh reactions from the populace. Reports had earlier suggested Japan would spend $12.6 billion to host the Games, but a government audit held last year, poured water on those estimates.
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According to the audit, expenditure for the Games will be twice the originally reported amount. Apart from the $ 5.6 billion from the privately funded operating budget, the rest is all public money. The IOC has contributed $ 1.3 billion to that private budget but are not expected to pay much more.
IOC member John Coates, who manages planning the Tokyo Olympics, said last week that the IOC would have to pay ‘several hundred million dollars’ to keep many sports federations and National Olympic Committees running. He did not specify any of that money going to Tokyo.
On being asked about whether Japan was ready to cover all the extra running or if the costs should be shared, Muto did not respond directly, instead quoting a statement made by the IOC and local organisers last week. “A joint statement is all we have,” Muto said. “We need to assess the impact of the postponement, then we need to discuss how to deal with it.”
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Questioned on the possibility of the Olympics being further delayed because of uncertainties surrounding the pandemic, Muto chose to be diplomatic.
Muto was also questioned about the possibility of the Olympics in 2021 due to the concerns caused by the coronavirus. Scientists and communicable disease experts have said the chances of the Games being held next year is very unlikely. Muto chose to not indulge in the speculation though.
“How this coronavirus infection situation will develop and when it will end – no one can answer this question with certainty,” he said, while ruling out the possibility of another postponement that would take the Games to 2022. Cases are now spiking in Japan, particularly in Tokyo and other large cities. As of Monday, there were over 12,000 detected infections in Japan and 328 deaths.
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