Delayed 2020 Olympic Games ‘unlikely’ go ahead in Tokyo this year

The Olympic rings float in the water at sunset in Odaiba.
Image Credit: AP

Dubai: Keith Mills, the chief executive of the London 2012 Olympics, has told the BBC that it is “unlikely” that the delayed 2020 Olympic Games will go ahead in Tokyo this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Mills told the BBC that those in charge should be “making plans for a cancellation”.

The Japan capital is under a state of emergency after a surge of COVID-19 cases, six months before the Games are due to open on July 23 — a year after a postponement from its original date — with the Paralympics following immediately after.

Over the past 12 months, the cost of the Games has soared by 22 per cent to £11.5 billion. Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live, Mills said: “I think they’ll leave it to absolutely the last minute in case the situation improves dramatically, in case the vaccinations roll out faster than we all hoped. It’s a tough call.

“Personally, sitting here looking at the pandemic around the world, it looks unlikely I have to say. If I was sitting in the shoes of the organising committee in Tokyo, I would be making plans for a cancellation and I’m sure they have plans for a cancellation. They’ve got another month or so before they need to make a call.”

Last week, Japanese minister Taro Kono admitted hosting the Games “could go either way”. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has insisted the Games will go ahead despite mounting public opposition.

“The challenge is whether enough competitors and enough countries can visit Japan and make it a really viable games,” Mills added. “We shouldn’t forget the Paralympics. Many of the competitors have underlying health conditions so flying around the world competing will be a challenge for them.”

More than 11,000 athletes from roughly 200 countries were expected to take part in the Games.

“The prestige, the spotlight on Japan and Tokyo, they’ll lose that if they have to cancel, which would be tragic,” said Mills. “It’s left the sports event industry in a really dreadful position because [organisers] invest hundreds of millions of pounds in putting on events, but have an insurance policy.

“Right now you’re lucky if you can get event cancellation insurance, and even if you can get it, the terms and conditions are really onerous now. So the whole premise of running large-scale events where cancellation is always a possibility … if there’s no insurance there who’s going to take the risk?”

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