Now that the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo have been postponed until July 2021 in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, officials say they have no backup plan.
“We’re proceeding on the basis that, well, there is no Plan B of deferring the Games again or anything like that,” John Coates, head of the International Olympic Committee’s inspectorate for the Games, said May 9. “We’ve got a task force at the IOC, a taskforce in Japan. This is a massive exercise, and we are working through now getting the same venues, the same 43 venues.” And Thomas Bach himself has acknowledged the Games will be cancelled if they can't be held in 2021.
Coates’ comments came a few weeks after Tokyo 2020 President Yoshiro Mori declared that the Olympics would not be delayed a second time to 2022. If the pandemic remains a threat next summer, “it’s canceled,” he said. If not, Mori added “we’ll hold the Olympics in peace next summer. Mankind is betting on it.”
Well, maybe not all of mankind.
Yoshitake Yokokura, president of the Japan Medical Association, expressed concern in late April that the rescheduled Games could be in jeopardy unless a vaccine is available. “My personal opinion is that if an effective vaccine has not been developed, it will be difficult to hold the Olympic Games,” Yokokura told The New York Times. “I would not say they should not be held, but I would say that it would be exceedingly difficult.”
Many medical experts have said a viable vaccine likely won’t be available for 12 to 18 months, and The Times noted that Olympic officials might “be forced to make modifications to the established elaborate model for the Games” in 2021.
The postponement by one year already has Olympic vendors feeling the impact. The Associated Press reports that “five official Olympic merchandise shops in Tokyo will close by early June, … [and] it’s not clear if they will reopen.”
Further complicating matters is that contracts between Tokyo 2020 and shop owners were previously slated to expire after the Olympics and Paralympics this year, according to Inside the Games, which notes that licensed merchandise was expected to generate more than $130 million in revenue.
“We are discussing the contracts with the shop owners,” Tokyo 2020 spokesman Masa Takaya told Inside the Games. “I cannot say precisely how many shops will be affected.”
The rescheduled Olympics are slated for July 23 to Aug. 8, 2021, with the Paralympics slated for Aug. 24 to Sept. 5, 2021.