Tokyo 2020 organizers weigh 200 proposals for simplified Olympics

Linda J. Dodson

TOKYO — The Summer Games hosted by Japan will not be “done with grand splendor,” organizers said Wednesday night, setting up an Olympics next year that will fall short of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s original hope of holding them “in their full form.”

About 200 proposals to simplify the games are being considered, Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, told reporters after an executive board meeting Wednesday.

The question of attendance by spectators, whose absence would be a loss to Japan’s economy, remains up in the air.

“We have already seen great progress even in the short time since the last executive board meeting,” Bach said, adding that reducing the complexity of the games would in turn reduce postponement costs.

In a press briefing in Japan, Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto outlined three principles for the postponed games, the first of which is ensuring the health and safety of athletes and spectators.

Organizers are looking at reconfiguring athlete locker rooms in line with coronavirus distancing measures, and prohibiting visitors from entering the athletes’ village.

The 2020 Summer Olympics were supposed to start at the end of July, but will go down in history as the first peacetime games to be postponed due to a pandemic.

Abe announced a yearlong postponement in March when the coronavirus pandemic showed no signs of abating before the summer. The postponement is expected to place an additional financial burden on Japan, which has spent an estimated $12 billion to prepare for the games.

Bach declined to “preempt” discussions by the IOC athletes’ commission on allowing athletes to protest at the games, such as kneeling during national anthems. Officials from FIFA indicated this week a relaxation of the international soccer federation’s long-standing prohibition of political expression on the field.

In light of global protests against racism sparked by the death of George Floyd, Bach said athletes’ participation in the Olympics is proof of the movement’s nondiscrimination.

“The Olympic Games are a very powerful global demonstration against racism and for inclusivity,” he said. “We also agree with the athletes’ commission that we must always respect the Olympic spirit and this means that we must make a difference between such support for the principles enshrined in the OC [Olympic Charter] and potentially divisive demonstrations.”

According to a timeline shared with reporters, organizers will wait until the fall for more information and for the outbreak to ease before deciding coronavirus countermeasures. Even with limited attendance, health screening for over 10,500 athletes, support staff and media representatives will pose a challenge for Japan’s coronavirus testing capacity, which is presently at 27,000 tests per day.

Following the original timeline, test matches at official venues will be held next spring with the Olympic torch relay beginning in April, in time for the opening ceremony on July 23. The torch has remained in Tokyo since it arrived in March.

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