The decision has been made to postpone the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics for about a year.
In the past, the games had been canceled, including the 1940 Tokyo Games, because of war. Amid the spread of the novel coronavirus worldwide, the postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Games is comparable to those cancellations, but a historical first.
There are no clear prospects that the spread of the virus will end within the year, and if the games are postponed for two years, Olympic trials would be brought back to square one. Two years' worth of expenses are enormous. Considering these factors, postponing until next year is largely the most convincing option.
However, there is no decisive proof that the pandemic will die down in about a year. Athletes from over 200 countries and regions participate in the games. As long as the games entail the influx and outflow of people from around the world, ensuring the safety of athletes and spectators is a given in hosting the games.
If the Olympics are postponed for a year, there are bound to be sports in which trials and qualifiers must be redone.
In that case, athletes who had already been selected to compete in the 2020 Games would once again be subjected to pressure both in terms of their physical and psychological conditions. At the same time, however, some athletes will be given new opportunities. We hope that sports associations will set up environments in which athletes can show their abilities to their fullest, and find the best way to prevent a sense of unfairness.
The Tokyo Olympics organizing committee faces a mountain of challenges. A large portion of work will have to be redone, including the procurement of sports facilities, arranging accommodations and transportation, gathering volunteers and the torch relay.
We hope that this postponement is used as an opportunity to improve upon the problems that had been pointed out in the preparations for the games. We would very much like to see that dates and times for events be set to avoid extremely hot weather. Problems with Odaiba Marine Park, the venue for the triathlon where the water quality was brought into question, as well as the marathon and race walking, whose venues were switched from Tokyo to Sapporo, in the northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido, must be sorted out.
Additional fees from the postponement are also an important issue. The organizing committee, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, and the Japanese government have allocated a total of 1.35 trillion yen as the budget for the games. Additional expenses are expected to reach several hundred billion yen. Contingency funds of 27 billion yen exist, but that is not nearly enough.
A random ballooning of expenses cannot be permitted. Efforts to cut back on costs is a must. Additional outlays must be worked out at an early date, and a decision made about who will foot what portion of those sums.
It has already been decided that if the organizing committee's finances go into the red, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government will shoulder the expenses, and if that does not cover the costs, the central government is set to pay for the difference -- which is to say that taxpayers would be paying. In addition to ensuring transparency, proactive disclosure of information is crucial.
Cancellations of related events and reservations for accommodations are likely to have a negative effect on various areas. As the economy slows down due to the impact of the spread of the coronavirus, the postponement of the games adds insult to injury. The government must undertake relief measures that will soften the blow against the domestic economy, including providing assistance to companies that are affected.
In the process of making the decision to postpone the Olympics and Paralympics, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stood at the fore. If the games were canceled, the damage to the economy would have been great. To avoid a worst-case scenario, Abe directly negotiated with IOC President Thomas Bach, leading the way to a postponement.
Some have pointed out that Abe set a goal of hosting the games by the summer of 2021, in light of the end of his term as the president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in September of next year. Perhaps he does have the ulterior motive of finishing off his final term with a bang -- the games. However, the Olympics are not hosted for the sake of an administration's legacy.
The IOC became the target of criticism from athletes and the Olympic committees of various countries, for being insistent on having the games go on as planned. It was so focused on business contracts and possible losses, that it fell behind on coordinating with other sports competitions for alternate dates to hold the postponed games.
The same goes for Japanese Olympics authorities who refused to face the reality of the spreading virus and continued to push for holding the games as planned. A "commercial games" without consideration for the athletes ignores the origins of the Olympics and the Paralympics.
The games aim to contribute to the building of a peaceful society through sports. This time, we are not fighting a war, but a global viral infection. But the essence is the same, in that the Olympics bring people together.
The games have grown in step with globalization. With the spread of the viral infection, the flow of people of the world have been cut off, due to limitations on travel and orders to stay home. But once the infection wanes, sports must once again take the role of bringing people together and energizing them.
We would like to take the fact that the games were not canceled positively. In order to host a games that will be celebrated by people around the world, all measures must be taken to create an environment in which athletes can partake in sports and spectators can watch without worry.