Olympic Games Could Be Delayed 1-2 Years, Tokyo 2020 Board Member Believes

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A delay of one or two years would be the “most feasible” option if the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games could not be held this July and August due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) global health emergency, a member of the organising committee’s executive board has told Reuters, the news agency.

Haruyuki Takahashi, one of more than two dozen members of the Tokyo 2020 executive board, revealed that the leadership group had just started looking at scenarios for how the virus could affect the Games.

The message so far from organisers and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has been a consistent “Games must go on”, as sponsors who have pumped in billions of dollars grow increasingly nervous about how the coronavirus outbreak will affect their investment in the Games. That official message did not change today.

Takahashi now tells Reuters that the financial damage from cancelling the Games or holding them without spectators would be too great, while a delay of less than a year would clash with other major professional sports schedules, making it unworkable for broadcasters such as lead broadcast-rights holder NBC. The first person in high authority to suggest a delay of such magnitude, Takahashi said:

“We need to start preparing for any possibility. If the Games can’t be held in the summer, a delay of one or two years would be most feasible.”

Tokyo 2020 organisers issued a statement to say that neither they nor the IOC was considering postponing or cancelling the Games. The statement noted:

“We sought clarification from Mr. Takahashi; he stated he had inadvertently given his personal opinion in response to a hypothetical question. As IOC President (Thomas Bach) stated the other day, neither the IOC nor the organising committee are considering postponing or cancelling the Tokyo 2020 Games, and we are proceeding with our preparations for a safe and secure Games opening on July 24, 2020, as planned.”

Individuals at both the IOC and Tokyo 2020 have been considering other options, of course, and the IOC has confirmed that it is in constant contact with the World Health Organisation  (WHO) and is monitoring the situation, an indication that alternatives would have to be considered as part of standard contingency planning.

Seiko Hashimoto, the Olympic Minister for Japan, shored that up when she told Parliament:

“From the viewpoint of athletes who are the main protagonists in the Tokyo Games, as they are making adjustments and preparations for this once-in-four-years event … it is inconceivable to cancel or postpone.”

The decision to do so was, she noted, in the hands of the IOC.

Experts say a one-year postponement to the same time next year would pose major logistical problems but was doable for broadcasters.

Hashimoto has previously noted that the contract with the IOC allows postponement within the same year, 2020. That would be the most acceptable option in terms of the athletes, even if broadcasters have reason to disagree. Any delay to another year could have marked consequences for some athletes at the peak of their careers this year; at the end of their careers this year; and looking forward to what would be their Olympic debuts.

Dick Pound, the IOC member from Canada and former Commonwealth swimming champion, said last month that cancellation was more likely the postponement because of the logistical nightmare of a shift and time and possibly even venues, while D-Day would wait until May.

One of the key arguments for delay is anti-doping: WADA is monitoring “gaps” in the testing system in an attempt to deliver a “fair” outcome and Games but acknowledges that the coronavirus outbreak delivers circumstances that have knocked testing programs, including period of almost a month in China when no testing took place at all, for obvious public safety reasons.

washhands

Wash Hands! Photo Courtesy: Craig Lord

Cancellation of the Games would also, in pure terms of impact on athletes, evoke memories of events in history that had a crippling effect on the sportsmen and women denied their moment at the height of their abilities.

The Coronavirus Spread

The novel coronavirus strain, which causes the COVID-19 illness marked by severe and life-threatening respiratory disease in some patients, has infected more than 116,000 people and killed more than 4,000 around the world since it surfaced in China late last year.

Japan has reported nearly 1,300 cases, yesterday marking the biggest rise in cases as 59 new infections were reported, according to public broadcaster NHK.

While comparisons continue to be made, medical personnel on the ground in places where the epidemic has hit hard, continue to issue warnings countering complacency and noting the severity of the COVID-19 illness. This thread is one of many examples:

More Swimming World Coverage Of The Impact Of The Coronavirus

 

37 comments

  1. Pamela Wu

    It’s sad but safety first.

    • Louise Mason

      Sue Barnard – well it was always on the cards I guess – a slight light at the end of a long tunnel for some (😉) but very disappointing and sad for so many others 😔

  2. Amanda Arkow Wagner

    This is heartbreaking for the athletes who have worked so hard but it makes sense.

  3. Alish Shah

    Sad 😞 but safety first

  4. Karen Anne Gunton

    So sad for the athletes who have worked so hard for this …

  5. Mike Walker

    Makes no Sense this is not contained and is every place. It’s going to be just like the normal flu. It’s going to make its way threw just about everyone and might came back for a second round. They are more worried that people won’t travel and spend $$. This is about the athletes let them do what they have trained there entire life for. .

  6. Andrea Bravo Fernandez

    READ THE ARTICLE, NOT ONLY THE HEADLINE!

    “…. Tokyo 2020 organisers issued a statement to say that neither they nor the IOC was considering postponing or cancelling the Games. The statement noted:
    “We sought clarification from Mr. Takahashi; he stated he had inadvertently given his personal opinion in response to a hypothetical question. As IOC President (Thomas Bach) stated the other day, neither the IOC nor the organising committee are considering postponing or cancelling the Tokyo 2020 Games….”

    • avatar
      Troyy

      Yoshiro Mori, head of the Tokyo Olympic committee, also said Takahashi’s suggestion that the games be delayed is outrageous so it seems like there are no plans at all the delay or cancel. I wish the article would make clear at the beginning that so far there is NO plan to cancel or delay.

      • avatar
        Craig Lord - Swimming World Editor-in-Chief

        Troy, news means it’s new… the old line is in the third paragraph, nothing changed in official position. I’m happy with it being third paragraph. When a board member makes the statement he did, you can be sure he expressed that view behind closed doors, too. That the official position remains “games go on” is not the news line nor the headline (which states that one man ‘believes’) when a Tokyo2020 board member says what he said after a meeting to look at possible options. It is the first mention of any such delay of that magnitude by any person in a position of authority.

    • Brittany Bellomo

      Jodi Robins that’s so crazy we were talking about it last week. Imagine all the training these people have put in

    • Mike Miles

      Jodi Robins, If a postponement of the Olympics would become necessary, that would create a very interesting dilemma for team member selection. As you know a lot can happen over the course of time on when athlete performance peaks or wanes. Guess we are all along for the ride, and we’ll see how things transpire.

    • Jodi Robins

      Mike Miles it would be very unfortunate

  7. Andrea Bravo Fernandez

    READ THE ARTICLE, NOT ONLY THE HEADLINE!

    “…. Tokyo 2020 organisers issued a statement to say that neither they nor the IOC was considering postponing or cancelling the Games. The statement noted:
    “We sought clarification from Mr. Takahashi; he stated he had inadvertently given his personal opinion in response to a hypothetical question. As IOC President (Thomas Bach) stated the other day, neither the IOC nor the organising committee are considering postponing or cancelling the Tokyo 2020 Games….”

    • Kathryn Meinhardt

      Andrea Bravo Fernandez they shouldn’t even be talking about it. None of this hysteria should be going on at all.

  8. avatar
    John

    What is with all the people on this site who just post someone else’s name in comments and nothing else? Are they linking the article or something and too lazy to send them the web address or what? Or are they just ‘Hey Ma! Look at me! I’m on the internet!’ like Facebook users? It’s been a feature for years and you never get it on Swim Swam!