Rescheduling the Tokyo 2020 Olympics will involve "massive" additional costs, organisers of the Games conceded Thursday as they convened a taskforce to begin working on the "unprecedented" and complex task.
The historic decision to postpone the Games over the new coronavirus outbreak leaves organisers with a logistical headache as they work to shift the enormous event to an as-yet-undecided date next year.
"One by one, we need to ensure the problems we face can be solved," Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto said in opening remarks at the first meeting of the taskforce.
Muto gave no estimates for how much the process of postponing the Olympic and Paralympic Games could cost.
Here’s what the organisers of Tokyo Olympics said:
Toshiro Muto, Tokyo 2020 CEO
- Additional expenses are going to be quite massive we assume. With regards to our revenues, we need to make a lot of effort there
- Muto said organisers would not rip up their existing plans, but added: "I guess we need to step back a bit." "Sometimes you need to go back to the drawing board," he said.
Yoshiro Mori, Tokyo 2020 president
- The Olympics have never faced this much disruption in peacetime, and the decision to delay the event has created unprecedented challenges, Tokyo 2020 president Yoshiro Mori said.
- Tokyo 2020 staff "will experience difficulties they have never experienced before. I am sure they will rise to the occasion. This is going to be a very difficult task that we are facing," he said.
- No deadlines have yet been set for the rescheduling of the Games, which are now due to take place by summer 2021, but Mori said he would ensure "all the decisions are made as quickly as possible". Muto underscored the scale of the task ahead, saying even he "didn't imagine at all we would be tested to this degree”.
- We want to make sure we go beyond this test and that next year in Tokyo, the torch is lit for the Olympic and Paralympic Games. We believe this is the mission we face.
Economic pressure on Shinzo Abe
Shinzo Abe's government enjoys stable public support, hovering around 50 per cent in approval rating polls, and the prime minister has benefitted from a dearth of viable alternatives both within his ruling party and the fragmented opposition.
A series of corruption scandals, the stumbling economy and unpopular legislation have at no time seriously threatened his government.
"In this case, the pandemic could even shift the public's attention" away from his administration's shortcomings, Kato said.
Perhaps more problematic for Abe is the expected economic downturn from the global pandemic. Analysts say the postponement of the Olympics is unlikely to result in a major lasting economic hit, with benefits simply delayed rather than lost altogether.
But the country's economy was already struggling before the pandemic began, with the prime minister's signature "Abenomics" strategy failing to boost sluggish growth.
Tourism had come under pressure from a spat with South Korea, and domestic consumption has been hit by a sales tax hike imposed last year despite fears it could send the country into a recession.
The government has unveiled two emergency economic packages already and is expected to offer fresh stimulus in the coming weeks.
The economy, rather than the delay of the Olympics, is now the main pressure point on Abe, said Robert Dujarric, director of the Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies at Temple University's Tokyo campus.
"I think that when we look at the post-mortem of COVID-19, the Olympics will be a minor footnote," he said.