The Tokyo Olympics in full fog

“No further postponement: if the Olympic and Paralympic Games cannot take place in 2021, they will be canceled”: thus spoke in May the president of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee, Yoshiro Mori. “We must think about the possibility of a second postponement if the Olympics are not held next year”: thus responded in this mid-June to the newspaper Nikkan Sports, Haruyuki Takahashi, member of the same committee.

This cacophony within the organizing body is symptomatic of the vagueness surrounding the preparations for the planetary sporting event which should have taken place this summer in Tokyo. The Covid-19 crisis threw the Japanese protagonists into an abyss where financial, commercial and political as much as sports issues are mixed.

Principles but no decision

Since the decision to postpone the Olympics for a year (a deadline that fits well with the agenda of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe supposed to end his mandate in September 2021) has been decided at the end of March, the file is to be reviewed and the cost breakdown as well. The press keeps questioning government spokesman Yoshihide Suga on the note that Japan has agreed to pay. “Nothing is decided,” he repeats, while an additional cost of almost 2.5 to 3 billion euros is mentioned.

Read also Covid-19: Japan in recession, Abe disarmed

The increase in the bill can not be digested without discomfort by the Japanese in general and the Tokyoites in particular, what the governor of the capital, Yuriko Koike, understood in the campaign for his re-election. She first called for “simplification” according to her “essential to gain the understanding of the people of Tokyo” whose voices she hopes.

It’s an opportunity to totally rethink these games

“We do not yet have a quote, we are currently evaluating the items on which we can save, we have identified 200 possibilities”, explains Toshiro Muto, the director of Tokyo 2020. However, he is unable to give just one or two examples of planned cost reductions. “We have decided on three principles: safety, rationalization of expenses, simplification. There are lots of figures coming out, but nothing is fixed yet, ”says media Yuriko Koike. “For the athletes, another postponement would be very hard. More than two years apart, it would be a completely different test. There are, of course, a lot of problems for the Olympic Games to take place in 2021, but precisely this is an opportunity to completely rethink these games. “

The countdown installed in front of the Tokyo station, one of the main stations in the Japanese capital.
© Karyn Nishimura

It is indeed necessary to revise all the contracts with the donors of the planned sites. “80% are already secure,” says Toshiro Muto, without specifying which ones. “80%, this also includes the places to which we said that we would reserve approximately from such period to such period, but the precise dates are not defined and the contracts not signed”, specifies one of the officials of Tokyo 2020 not wishing to be named.

The Big Site in Tokyo (for the press center in particular) and Makuhari Messe (in the neighboring prefecture of Chiba) are not yet certain where the fencing, wrestling and taekwondo events are planned. The managers of these gigantic spaces have already signed numerous contracts for the summer of 2021 with salons and exhibitors “who will claim considerable compensation” in the event of cancellation of their reservations, specifies at Point lawyer Nobuo Gohara. According to him, these negotiations risk being expensive or lost. “The absolute will to make these Olympic Games next year causes enormous losses”, he insists.

Insoluble equation

No savings plan set, uncertain locations and no guaranteed returns from sponsors either: the economic equation has so many unknowns that it seems insoluble. Some sponsors, the biggest, will not fail, that’s it already: “We have a partnership contract with the IOC until 2024, so we don’t ask ourselves the question, the postponement of a year does not change not the terms of our agreement “, explains to Point a spokesperson for Toyota, one of the major providers of funds for these Olympic Games.

Thirteen other companies also have a contract that covers the year 2021. But over sixty smaller companies only signed up for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games… in 2020. Their contract with the organizing committee ends at the end of this year. “The postponement was decided in late March and the state of emergency was declared in Japan in early April, we could not meet with these companies to discuss it, we will do it,” said Toshiro Muto.

No one can promise that the games will absolutely take place next year

“For firms to agree to donate more funds, they must have the financial backing. Many have been shaken by the Covid-19 crisis and have other priorities “, according to Master Gohara who does not see how they can legally do to sign a contract which would offer them guarantees to cover their costs in all cases of figure. “No one can promise that the games will absolutely take place next year”, recognizes the boss Muto who can only commit to “the determination of the organizers to do everything possible so that the Olympic Games will be held in 2021” in order to convince sponsors get their hands on the wallet.

“We don’t know what we’re going to do. We will decide based on the information given to us by the Tokyo 2020 committee. For the moment, we have not changed our position which is to support the Olympic Games for their success “, tempered for Point a spokesperson for the railway company JR East, whose train network will be used to a large extent if these games take place … in Tokyo.

And if the Tokyo Olympics took place … in Paris

Because some in political circles are active behind the scenes, with another scheme in mind: postpone the Tokyo Olympics in 2024, either by postponing those of Paris, or by combining the two. Candidate for the post of governor of Tokyo, Taisuke Ono, says it clearly: “To review the whole project of the Olympic Games in one year and to bring people from all over the world seems impossible, dangerous, especially if there is no vaccine against the Covid-19. This is why it would be better to discuss with Paris and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to postpone the two events or to do them jointly in part in one place and in the other. “

Taisuke Ono is unlikely to be elected and make his voice heard, but he is not the only one to have this idea also shared by lawyer Gohara. MPs discuss it in opposition and even, in secret, a rival clan to that of Prime Minister Abe in the omnipotent Liberal Democratic Party (PLD) which he chairs. All these “dissidents” hope to attract attention from Paris and the IOC.

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