A year to go, rearranged Tokyo Games still face uncertainty

Tokyo took the decision to delay the Games on March 24, 2020; the opening ceremony will now take place on July 23, 2021.

    The International Olympic Committee has said its share of the costs will be some $800m, but organisers have repeatedly refused to put a number on the final bill for Japanese stakeholders [File: Eugene Hoshiko/AP]
    The International Olympic Committee has said its share of the costs will be some $800m, but organisers have repeatedly refused to put a number on the final bill for Japanese stakeholders [File: Eugene Hoshiko/AP]

    Tokyo 2020 organisers will host celebrations marking the one-year countdown to the Olympics on Thursday, but with the postponed Games still shrouded in uncertainty, they are sure to be more muted than the first attempt 12 months ago.

    On July 24 last year, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach presided over a glitzy ceremony in the Japanese capital and declared Tokyo the best-prepared host city he had ever seen.

    Even six months ago, when fireworks exploded over a giant, luminous set of Olympic rings in Tokyo Bay, organisers were still optimistic that their huge financial investment would deliver an unforgettable Games.

    But in late March, the IOC and Japanese government were forced to take the unprecedented decision to postpone the Olympics for a year.

    Since then, all 42 venues for the Games have been secured and the competition schedule announced, with the opening ceremony set to take place at the 156.9 billion yen ($1.44bn) National Stadium on July 23, 2021.

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    Beyond that, though, questions remain about almost every aspect of hosting what the IOC's Bach calls the "most complex event on this planet".

    The head of the IOC's Coordination Commission, John Coates, has said rearranging the Games meant focusing on the "must-haves" in a simplified event.

    Less support

    Tokyo 2020 Chief Executive Toshiro Muto says more than 200 simplification measures are under consideration.

    What has yet to be decided is how much rearranging the Games is going to cost the Japanese taxpayer.

    The IOC has said its share of the costs will be some $800m, but organisers have repeatedly refused to put a number on the final bill.

    Olympics - Tokyo
    The Tokyo Olympics were postponed in March and are now scheduled to open on July 23 next year [File: Eugene Hoshiko/AP]

    The Games were already set to cost over 1.35 trillion yen ($12.6bn) before the postponement, and increased expenditure might further alienate a public already turning its back on an Olympics it once embraced enthusiastically.

    A recent poll conducted by Kyodo News found that fewer than one in four favoured holding the Games as scheduled next year.

    A third believed the Olympics should be postponed again - which Bach has warned is not an option - with another third wanting the Games cancelled outright.

    In addition to costs, three major issues dominate any conversation on the rearranged Games: athlete safety, spectators and sponsorship.

    Organisers have said all efforts will be made to ensure the 11,000 athletes will be able to travel safely to Tokyo and compete in world-class surroundings.

    Japan - Olympics
    A recent poll conducted by Kyodo News found that fewer than one in four favoured holding the Games as scheduled next year [Issei Kato/Reuters]

    SOURCE: Reuters news agency