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Tokyo Olympic committee working to 'simplify' Games for efficiency, COVID-19 safety

Cassandra Negley
·4 min read
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The Tokyo 2020 organizing committee is working to “simplify” the postponed Olympics for “efficiency” and athlete safety, Japanese Olympic Committee chairman Yasuhiro Yamashita said.

The Games are slated to start on July 23, 2021, but there is still growing concern about holding the Olympics next year given the rising cases of COVID-19 around the world. If it is canceled outright at any point, it may be due to the “Olympic Curse.”

Tokyo ready to ‘simplify’ Olympics for costs

The Tokyo organizing committee and International Olympic Committee (IOC) have proposed to “simplify” the rescheduled Games, which were initially slated to begin in 10 days.

“We will not gain support from Japanese citizens unless we simplify the games and focus less on flamboyancy and concentrate more on efficiency,” Yamashita said, via the Associated Press.

Yamashita is a former Olympic gold medalist in judoka and said, via Reuters, he had experienced “gorgeous and extravagant” Olympic events, but the concept for 2021 will need to focus on safety and security.

There are no specifics on what would be eliminated, per the AP. Organizers said sports events will not be cut and neither will the quota of 11,000 Olympic athletes and 4,400 Paralympians.

In addition to athletes, more than 25,000 media members attend. There are about 80,000 volunteers and nearly 1 million spectators per day.

Cutbacks could include fewer services offered to participants, fewer fan opportunities and no torch relay, or at least a shortened one.

COVID-19 postponement causes financial trouble

Postponing the Games is a large financial undertaking mostly taken on by the Japanese Olympic Committee. The biggest move is deals to book stadiums, hotels and venues for 2021 — that pushes back anything else that might have been scheduled there and could come at a premium.

Yamashita said the organization is suffering in terms of money. Via Reuters:

“In regards to the next fiscal year (the financial situation of JOC) will be quite tough,” he said after a difficult first year in charge. “ ... I think there is a high possibility that we may have to consider borrowing money.”

Before the novel coronavirus spread turned into a pandemic, Japan was already projected to spend around $25 billion on the Olympics. It is nearly four times as much what the organizing committee estimated it to cost when it won the bid in 2013.

Will the Olympics be held at all in 2021?

Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Organizing Committee President Yoshiro Mori (2-L) holding the Olympic flame walks to the podium with Olympic gold medalists Tadahiro Nomura (L) and Saori Yoshida (2-R) and Japan Olympic Committee President Yasuhiro Yamashita (R) during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games Flame Arrival Ceremony at the Japan Air Self-Defense Force Matsushima Air Base on March 20, 2020 in Higashimatsushima, Miyagi, Japan. (Photo by Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images)
Japan Olympic Committee President Yasuhiro Yamashita (R) said the 2021 rescheduled Games will be simplified. (Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images)

Medical experts continue to warn that the Olympics could pose a health risk to the Japanese public by increasing the risk of an outbreak. Part of it is because the country did a good job of containing the virus to begin with and few residents have the antibodies. Via Reuters on Friday:

“Very few are infected in Japan and pretty much everyone is susceptible,” said Katsunori Yanagihara, professor in Nagasaki University’s school of tropical medicine and global health.

Japan, a country of about 127 million people, has had about 20,000 cases of COVID-19 and 980 deaths. The United States, which has about 328 million, has nearly 3.3 million cases as of Tuesday and nearly 135,000 deaths.

Countries and even individual U.S. states are currently putting in travel bans to lower the possibility of a new outbreak of COVID-19. A vaccine is unlikely to be available in enough quantity a year from now and all it takes is one person to begin an outbreak in closed quarters.

‘The Cursed Olympics’

Individual athletes have already voiced concern the Olympics will go on in 2021, especially as the United States struggles to contain the virus. In March, Japan’s Deputy Prime Minister Tara Aso noted, via the Asia Times, that it’s a “problem that’s happened every 40 years — it’s the cursed Olympics.

The 1940 Summer and Winter Olympics held in Tokyo and Sapporo, respectively, were canceled outright due to World War II. Sapporo is in the running for the 2030 Winter Olympics and Japanese organizers are optimistic it could win it if Tokyo goes well.

Forty years later, the 1980 Moscow Summer Games were boycotted by the United States and 64 other countries. They were protesting the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Now it’s another 40 years and Tokyo is trying to put on a show in any way it feasibly can.

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