Sports

Tokyo 2020 organisers planning for contingencies, say sources

Olympic organisers are considering different scenarios, say sources

Tokyo 2020 organisers have started drafting possible alternatives to holding the Olympics this summer, two sources familiar with the talks said, in contrast to the Japanese government's stance that postponement is not an option.

While the coronavirus outbreak has disrupted sports events around the world, Japan has been steadfast in saying that the July 24-Aug 9 Games will go ahead as scheduled.

At risk is more than US$3 billion (S$4.34b) in domestic sponsorship, an Olympic record, and some US$12 billion spent on preparations.

"Finally, we have been asked to make a simulation in case of a postponement," said one of the sources, an official close to the organising committee who is involved in drafting the scenarios.

Both sources spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to the media.

"We are making alternative plans - plan B, C, D - looking at different postponement timeframes," said the official, adding the scenarios included cost estimates for different delays.

Neither Tokyo 2020 organisers nor the International Olympic Committee (IOC) immediately responded to a request for comment. The government of Japan could not be reached for comment.

The options, which include scaling back the Games or holding them without spectators, would be debated by the organising committee next week, the official said.

The second source, who is also close to the Tokyo 2020 organising committee, confirmed that postponement was being discussed, including delays of one or two years.

Some organising staff were holding out hope for a delay of a month or 45 days, said the official involved in drafting the scenarios.

A final decision on postponement will have to come from the IOC, but Japan's stance also matters.

The organisers have drawn criticism for putting the athletes' health at risk, but IOC president Thomas Bach has reiterated that the Games will go ahead as planned, despite admitting that they are also "considering different scenarios".

But he has ruled out cancelling the Games, telling German broadcaster SWF that "would be the least fair solution".

Two other insiders, both senior members of the Tokyo 2020 organising committee, echoed athletes' concerns.

DECISIVE ACTION

One of them, a board member of the organising committee, said the decision to postpone should be made quickly.

"The more they push the decision away... more and more preparations have to be made - this will cause cancellation fees to go through the roof," the board member said.

The official involved in drafting scenarios said a long delay could spark complaints from older athletes and require keeping sponsors on board for longer.

Another headache is the Olympic village, due to be converted to flats after the Games.

Japanese sponsors are nervous, company representatives have said privately. Major sponsors include Toyota Motor Corp and Panasonic Corp.

"Of course, companies are individually discussing what to do," said a representative of one of the more than 60 sponsors. "No one wants to be the first to say anything about the possibility of a postponement."

Japan Airlines (JAL) discussed that there was an 80 per cent chance the Olympics would not be held as scheduled on a recent internal conference call, a person briefed on the call said. But a JAL spokesman said: "Our preparations are underway for the Games to open as scheduled." - REUTERS

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