International Olympic Committee stays silent on delay cost-sharing

Linda J. Dodson

TOKYO — Despite mounting concerns over additional costs that will be incurred in delaying the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and who will bear them, the International Olympic Committee failed to provide a clear response about cost-sharing in a news conference held on Thursday.

“The IOC is certainly facing some very significant costs which are related to the Olympic movement,” said John Coates, chair of the IOC’s coordination commission, during a virtual news conference after a meeting with the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee. It was the first joint briefing held by Lausanne and Tokyo since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced on March 30 that the Games would be delayed by a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“There are additional costs for our international federations, the national Olympic committees and other stakeholders,” Coates added, declining to directly answer a question as to whether the IOC will assist Tokyo 2020. 

Emergency reserve funds held by the committee and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government amount to 27 billion yen ($250.8 million), which falls well short of the 300 billion yen that rescheduling the Games is estimated to cost. That estimate is on top of the $12.6 billion investment already made by Japan.

A state of emergency declared by Abe on April 7 has created an additional challenge for Tokyo 2020 organizers, who must now do the critical work of securing Olympic venues for next year while sheltering at home. As of last week, only 10% of staff are continuing to work in Tokyo 2020’s headquarters in Harumi, to perform tasks that CEO Toshiro Muto said were “absolutely necessary.” 

“Some work requires face-to-face discussions, such as asking venue companies whether we can use their venues in 2021,” Muto told reporters last week.

Most of the 43 venues that will be used to host Olympic and Paralympic events were either specially constructed, such as the Ariake Urban Sports Park, or managed by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. These would be easily secured for next year but organizers face more difficulty in renegotiating lease contracts for privately owned venues.

Nissan Stadium, Yokohama Baseball Stadium, Sapporo Dome and Saitama Stadium are all home to professional soccer and baseball teams, whose regular seasons overlap with Olympic programming and will have to be prioritized by the operators.

Whether the organizing committee can use these same venues next year is unclear. Muto said on Thursday that the organizing committee is in the midst of approaching all the venues.

From the point of view of the venue owners, the postponement of league start dates and cancellation of other events due to the coronavirus outbreak also clouds their visibility. 

“There are other event organizers who want to book the venue, and there are those who had to reschedule their event due to Tokyo 2020 this year, so it is not easy to rearrange and adjust the schedule,” a spokesperson for Saitama Super Arena, which was slated to host Olympic basketball games, told Nikkei.

The organizing committee will also have to secure the media center and the athletes’ village in Harumi. Several units of the Harumi Flag condominiums have already been sold to private buyers who were expecting to move in after September. Nikkei reported earlier this month that the Tokyo government is considering the use of Olympic accommodation to isolate patients with mild coronavirus symptoms, as confirmed cases in the capital continue to rise.

Last week, Muto told reporters that cost-sharing between the Tokyo organizers and the IOC has not yet been determined. “Since we don’t know how much the extra costs will be, we haven’t even started discussions on who will be shouldering these costs,” he said.

Amid this uncertainty, Tokyo 2020 itself may be homeless, as its lease of several floors in the Harumi Triton complex will be up soon. Other tenants have already secured some spaces currently occupied by Tokyo 2020, as the committee had planned to reduce its operations after the original Olympics end date in September.

“Following the postponement of the Games, there are some floors in Harumi Triton Square where we may not be able to extend our lease,” a spokesperson for Tokyo 2020 said, adding that the committee is looking for alternatives.

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