The void and the doubts: what will become of the tokyo games??

The void and the doubts: what will become of the tokyo games??

The painful emptiness will once again become clear to the olympic world on friday.

Instead of kicking off the tokyo summer games with a magnificent opening ceremony as planned, the sport is struggling with the effects of the unprecedented olympics postponement to next year. The japanese hosts and the international olympic committee (ioc) around its president thomas bach cling to the hope of a timely end of the corona crisis for the 2021 games. But the doubts are huge.

What were the consequences of the postponement??

For more than 11.000 athletes, the goal they have been working towards for years is now another twelve months away. For many, this is a major break in their training, career and family plans. The hosts and the IOC will incur additional costs totaling several billion euros. Federations and national olympic committees must fight for their economic survival on the one hand, and completely revise their competition calendars and qualification guidelines on the other hand.

How certain is it that the olympics will be held next year??

The doubts are rough. If a vaccine is not found in time to end the coronavirus pandemic, summer games with thousands of athletes and millions of fans in japan are hardly imaginable. Virologist ulrike protzer of the technical university of munich expects a sports festival reduced to a minimum at most. "Not with crowds of people, not as a rough show event accompanied by commercial interests. But they are possible as sporting events," the researcher told ZDF. Some 70 percent of japanese think tokyo games should be postponed again or canceled altogether, according to recent survey. The organizers and the IOC, however, are sticking to their plans and want to present detailed concepts for an olympics under corona conditions in the fall.

What is the current situation in the host country??

The number of corona deaths in japan passed the 1000 mark at the beginning of the week. Tokyo had recently declared a high alert after the number of infected people had risen again significantly. Japan is in a severe recession, industrial production and exports have collapsed, and tourism, which had been booming until the outbreak of the corona crisis, has ground to a halt. Japan’s government braces itself against the crisis with a gigantic economic stimulus program. Due to the high number of infected people, however, tokyo is exempt from a controversial demand campaign for the tourism industry, domestic travel there will not be subsidized.

How far are the preparations for the 2021 games??

After successful negotiations with the owners and investors, all olympic venues and the athletes’ village will be available next year as originally planned. Purchased tickets remain valid, but can also be exchanged from autumn onwards. Volunteers who participated this year will be given priority in the volunteer program for 2021. IOC president thomas bach promises that the core of the games will remain unchanged for the athletes. The olympics organizers have announced significant savings, but they have not yet given any information on exactly where they will make them.

How could a corona olympics work?

Japan wants to make it easier for athletes and officials to enter the country. The country’s borders are currently closed. The participants from all over the world had to go to quarantines, if they were allowed to leave their home country at all. For the duration of the games, a highly complex hygiene concept with its own "bubbles" for the olympians had to take effect. According to IOC olympic director christophe dubi, more than 200 proposals had been made to contain the risk of infections. It is questionable whether spectators will be allowed to attend at all. Ghost games for television only, however, have been ruled out by IOC chief bach, who is also opposed by many athletes.

Why is the olympics not being cancelled now in the face of so much uncertainty??

For thomas bach, tokyo games to become symbol of victory against the virus. "The olympic games can be a unique milestone for the whole world," said the 66-year-old. For bach himself, saving the summer games would have been a personal triumph at the start of his second term, while a cancellation would have been a deep black stain on an already difficult presidency.

Japan, too, is determined to maintain its reputation as a master of organization and prevent a loss of face if the tokyo games fail. In addition to the olympic dream of many athletes, the hosts also have billions in investments at stake. IOC chief bach, on the other hand, denied financial motives such as securing TV revenues. "The cancellation of the games because of higher violence would have been easier for the IOC, we had the income from the insurance", he said recently to "L’equipe". "But we are here to organize the games, not to cancel them."


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