Tokyo, Japan (AFP) — The cost of the coronavirus-postponed Tokyo Olympics will be slashed by US$280 million, organisers said yesterday, touting a scaled-back Games with cuts to everything from staffing to pyrotechnics.
But the final price of the event — officially budgeted before the pandemic at 1.3 trillion yen (US$12 billion) — remains unclear because additional expenses caused by the postponement have not yet been made public.
Olympic chief Thomas Bach, in a virtual press conference from Lausanne, hailed the cuts as “a significant result considering the circumstances”.
“Most of the expenditure had been made. There’s very limited room to manoeuvre,” said Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Plans for a lower-key Olympics were unveiled last month, with cost-cutting measures including fewer free tickets, scrapping athlete welcome ceremonies, and savings on banners, mascots and meals.
“This work will help to create a model for future global events including forthcoming Games amid the new normal in which we now live,” organisers said in a statement after a presentation to the IOC Executive Board.
They said they would calculate an updated budget — including additional costs linked to postponement and coronavirus counter-measures — by the end of the year.
The 2020 Games were pushed back a year as the deadly new disease spread around the globe, and are now set to open on July 23, 2021.
But the delay has thrown up a plethora of new costs, from re-booking venues and transport to retaining a huge organising committee staff.
With many countries experiencing second or even third waves of infection, there have been doubts about whether the event can be staged, but organisers and Olympic officials insist it can be done safely.
“We’re aware some people are of the opinion that it should be cancelled,” Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto said yesterday.
“But if we’re not able to overcome COVID-19, is there anything positive about the situation? I think we can all agree that this is not a desirable situation.”
Organisers and officials are considering a long list of possible virus countermeasures that they hope will make it possible to hold the Games, even if a vaccine is not available.
But enthusiasm for the Games appears to have waned in Japan, with polls over the summer finding just one in four Japanese people wanted to see them happen, and most backing either a further postponement or outright cancellation.
Muto acknowledged the importance of public support for the event.
“It’s not our intention to hold the Games without gaining understanding” of people in Japan, he said.
If held at all, the final shape of the Games remains unclear, with questions including whether spectators will be allowed — including foreign visitors — yet to be resolved.
But IOC chief Bach was adamant that they were “working on the basis that there will be international spectators”.
“We do not know if we can fill the stadiums to full capacity or whether other measures will have to be applied.”
Organisers have made clear that at the very least it will be a more sober event than the usually exuberant spectacle.
They have said the size of behind-the-scenes delegations will be reduced by 10 to 15 per cent, and perks also cut back.
“As we’re in the COVID-19 world, are we in a world where the flashy event that we used to think of as normal before is still suitable? We’ve reached a turning point in this regard,” Muto said.
Bach defended the costly opening ceremony as a host country’s vital window to the world, but also conceded “there may very well be” a simplification of the original plans for the ceremony.
IOC Sports Director Christophe Dubi, speaking alongside Bach in Lausanne, added however that it was “really premature” to be talking of what changes might be made.
“By December we’ll have a clearer picture,” Dubi said in reference to the timing of the first interim report on the Games will be released.