Dick Pound, a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has told USA Today that the Olympics will indeed be postponed because of the coronarvirus pandemic.
Pound’s statement came after Prime Minister Abe Shinzo publicly said that the Olympics could not be held under the current circumstances, for the first time implying that the Olympics would be postponed.
It must be noted that Pound’s statement is not official, and that the IOC and Japanese officials will have 4 weeks worth of talks to discuss the ongoing situations concerning COVID-19, and what the fate of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will be.
However, everything seems to indicate that the Olympic Games will be postponed. On Monday, March 23, Canada and Australia announced their decision to withdraw from the games, the Canadian Olympic Committee mentioning that they wouldn’t be sending any athletes unless the games were postponed until 2021.
Postponing the games would be the best-case scenario for both Japan and Tokyo. There have been growing fears of the economic impact cancelling the games would have on Japan. The economy already shrank during the October to December period amidst low consumer spending caused the sales tax increase from 8 percent to 10 percent. What’s more, the economy is expected to contract 2.4 percent during the first quarter of 2020 as Japan flirts with recession. While postponing the Olympics could have a negative impact in the 2020 fiscal year, hosting them in 2021 would allow Tokyo to recover. However, cancelling the games would have disastrous consequences.
According to the Host City Contract, the Olympics had to be held in 2020. This led to Japan’s Olympic Minister Hashimoto Seiko to believe that the Olympics could be postponed as long as they took place in 2020. Now, the IOC considering the possibility of moving the games to 2021 shows great growth within the organization.
Last month, the IOC was reportedly not considering postponing the Olympics, instead mentioning that if the games could not be hosted they would have to be cancelled altogether, an act that has only occurred in times of war. Naturally, this infuriated Japanese officials and citizens.
This was because the IOC generates most of its money from broadcasting rights, so moving the Olympics to another month would have resulted in monetary losses since the Olympics would have to compete for viewers against other popular sports like American football.
The biggest issue with the Olympics is not that they can be a risky investment, but rather that the IOC has the final say when it comes to any decisions. When the IOC moved the marathon and racewalking events to Sapporo without consulting the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, it became clear that the Host City Contract allowed the IOC to do as it pleased.
If the IOC were to actually cancel the games, cities would have to really reconsider before submitting bids to host the Olympics. Cities invest billions of dollars when hosting the games, with the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics breaking the record of the most expensive Olympics in history due to their official $55 billion price tag, though estimates go as far as 70 billion.
That’s why postponing the Olympics would also be favorable for the IOC since it would give some necessary reassurance to host cities.