Debate seems to be the operating word for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and this was further confirmed on Wednesday, June 10.
The Tokyo 2020 Organizing committee held a press conference, announcing that plans were underway for a simplified Olympic Games and a roadmap for the next few months.
This was the first press conference held by the organizing committee since the announcement on March 24 that the Olympic and Paralympic Games would be delayed to the summer of 2021.
Talking to journalists, president of the 2020 Organizing Committee Yoshihiro Mori explained that the games would be simplified around three main pillars:
- Prioritizing the safety and health of the athletes with measures against COVID-19 contagion.
- Reducing where possible the added costs caused by the postponement, to increase people’s support of the games.
- Simplifying the organization where possible to make the Olympic Games sustainable.
To give an example of “simplifying,” Mr. Mori explained that more than 200 options are being contemplated so as to keep the costs from becoming extravagant but without affecting the number of visitors and the athletes. These include reducing staff and related side events.
The committee said that the organizers expected to finish fleshing out by the end of June how the postponement would affect venues. They would be looking into how COVID-19 prevention measures could best be incorporated from September 2020 until the end of the year. The plan is to start test runs in March 2021, while monitoring the situation.
Regarding worries that the Games might be difficult to hold even in 2021 if COVID-19 isn’t eradicated, Mori replied: “We will closely monitor the situation. We will have close consultation with the IOC.”
Mori finally commented on the importance the Games could potentially gain: “With novel coronavirus, the whole world is in confusion, and many people have fallen victims to the virus. We need to consider ways in which people can feel like they can join in this celebration, and it would be good if people later looked back and thought, ‘On that occasion, that was in essence the correct way to carry out the Olympics.’”
Mori also expressed hope that these unusual Games would become “a celebration of unity and symbiosis that has never been seen before” and “a symbol of human hope, unrelenting power, and the power to work together as one.”
Following the press conference, International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach expressed satisfaction with the progress report. He commented from Geneva: “Much progress has been made in simplifying the Games to cut costs. This has demonstrated Japan’s determination and ability to succeed in carrying out the Olympics in July next year.”
The following day, on June 11, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said in his daily briefing, “As a government, we will continue to work closely with the IOC, the Games Organizing Committee, and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, to ensure that athletes around the world can participate in perfect conditions and that the tournament is safe and secure for the audience.”
This comes as many had urged the organizing bodies, including the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, to consider simplifying the games given the global situation. The Sankei Shimbun ran an editorial on June 9, asking for organizers to shelf the idea of a “perfect Olympics,” and argued that “the endless enlargement of the Olympic Games needs to stop somewhere.”
The editorial concluded: “Simplicity and frugality are originally Japanese specialties. Success in a crisis is unique to Tokyo, so we hope it will be a tournament that makes the world grow.”
Let us hope that this will be the case.
Author: Arielle Busetto