The executive board of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced plans to “step up its scenario planning” for the upcoming 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo due to the global coronavirus pandemic — but emphasized that a cancellation of the games is “not on the agenda.”
The new scenarios will revolve around modifying existing operational plans for the Games (currently scheduled to begin July 24), in addition to any potential changes to the start date. “This step will allow better visibility of the rapidly changing development of the health situation around the world and in Japan. It will serve as the basis for the best decision in the interest of the athletes and everyone else involved,” the IOC said in a statement. The IOC hopes to finish these discussions “within the next four weeks.”
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However, the executive board insisted that “a cancellation of the Olympics Games Tokyo 2020 would not solve any of the problems or help anybody. Therefore, cancellation is not on the agenda.”
Despite improvements in host country Japan, the dramatic rise of coronavirus outbreaks and new cases around the world are troubling, and could override even the strictest safety regulations put in place, according to the executive board. There are also questions of venue availability (including hotel reservations) and the sports calendar for “at least 33 Olympic sports,” which would almost certainly need to be adapted.
The postponement or cancellation of the Olympic Games could have significant effects on the global economy. NBCUniversal has already sold more than $1.25 billion in advertising commitments for this year’s games; if cancelled (or with markedly lower ratings), NBC could be forced to release advertisers from their commitments or offer make-goods. The Olympics are also a major promotional vehicle for summer and fall series, as well as the upcoming Peacock service (which is set to offer hundreds of hours of exclusive content).
IOC President Thomas Bach issued a letter to the international athlete community, writing that “human lives take precedence over everything, including the staging of the Games. The IOC wants to be part of the solution. Therefore, we have made it our leading principle to safeguard the health of everyone involved, and to contribute to containing the virus. I wish, and we all are working for this, that the hope so many athletes, NOCs and IFs from all five continents have expressed will be fulfilled: that at the end of this dark tunnel we are all going through together, not knowing how long it is, the Olympic flame will be a light at the end of this tunnel.”
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