There can be no guarantee the postponed Tokyo Olympics will take place next year, the chief executive of the Games has admitted.
Tokyo 2020 became the most prominent sporting casualty of the coronavirus pandemic a fortnight ago when it was pushed back from July to the summer of 2021. The continuing spread of the virus means even that date is uncertain, according to the head of the Tokyo Organising Committee, Toshiro Muto.
“I don’t think anyone would be able to say if it is going to be possible to get [the pandemic] under control by next July or not,” Muto said on Friday. “We’re certainly not in a position to give a clear answer.
“We have made the decision to postpone the Games by one year. So this means all we can do is work hard to prepare for the Games. We sincerely hope that come next year mankind will manage to overcome the coronavirus crisis.”
Less than a month ago the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, insisted the Games would go ahead “without problem as planned” this summer. On 24 March he reluctantly agreed a postponement with the president of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach. Abe’s critics said he had been slow to act because of the significance of the Games to his political plans.
On Tuesday Abe announced a state of emergency that would give some regional governments, including Tokyo, power to curtail movement and close nonessential businesses. The measures stopped short of those employed in many other countries and were described as “not enough” by the governor of Tokyo, Yuriko Koike.
It is under that cloud of uncertainty that Muto made his remarks, with the chief executive admitting he was unsure whether insurance arranged by the organising committee would cover the current circumstances. “Tokyo 2020 has taken out several insurance policies,” he said, “but whether the postponement of the Games qualifies as an event that is covered is not clear yet.”
The effects of a delayed Olympic Games are not being felt only in Japan. Several British sporting bodies face financial difficulties following the postponement. While funding from the central body UK Sport has already been allocated some organisations were reliant on additional funding generated through sponsorship deals, money which has dried up because of the pandemic.