Tokyo 2020 to "listen and learn" from sporting events to aid development of coronavirus countermeasures

Tokyo 2020 to "listen and learn" from sporting events to aid development of coronavirus countermeasures


Tokyo 2020 are hoping to develop coronavirus countermeasures by the end of 2020 ©Getty Images

Tokyo 2020 have promised it will "listen and learn" from sporting events which have resumed in Japan and internationally, as organisers seek to develop "robust countermeasures" against coronavirus by the conclusion of the year.

Tokyo 2020 spokesperson Masa Takaya told insidethegames organisers had been "very encouraged" by the resumption of sport in recent months, as the Organising Committee continues planning for the rescheduled Olympic and Paralympic Games next year.

Takaya highlighted the resumption of professional baseball and football in Japan in recent months, with limited numbers of spectators permitted to attend.

Sporting events have also resumed internationally with professional football leagues in Europe resuming behind closed doors, while bio-secure bubbles are being used by the National Basketball Association and National Hockey League to resume their coronavirus-impacted seasons.

"In Japan the professional sports leagues have resumed, the regular season of baseball started in June and the J-League also resumed its regular season in July," Takaya told insidethegames.

"These scenes where we are able to see sports taking action is very encouraging to see.

"This is a good sign for the Japanese sporting community.

"Those sports leagues started accommodating spectators of up to 5,000 people starting from the middle of July.

"From a Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee perspective, it is encouraging to see.

"It is very important to listen and learn from those experiences from the sports community.

"We will look into how their countermeasures on Covid-19 are in place and see what has been very useful and what may not be so useful.

"We are in close contact with all the International Federations for experiences of the countermeasures and it can be conveyed through those channels.

"It is very crucial to keep this close dialogue with these International Federations, which are resuming their sporting calendars this autumn."


The J-League is among professional sporting events to resume with limited spectators ©Getty Images

Coronavirus countermeasures are viewed as key to the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games taking place next year following their postponement.

The process will be led by the Japanese Government as part of a three-party council, which will also feature the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee.

Meetings are set to begin this autumn to determine "robust countermeasures" and which are expected to be announced by the end of 2020.

With athletes from 206 National Olympic Committees expected to attend the Games, concerns have been raised over the differing situations in countries over controlling the pandemic, with the Brazil and the United States seeing continued high numbers of infections.

"The latest situation is very challenging," Takaya told insidethegames.

"It is very difficult for anyone to predict or forecast how the Games will look in the Summer of 2021, but in the meantime, it is important to have assumptions to enable us to further discuss countermeasures.

"Internally we are working with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and all delivery partners, where assumptions can be thoroughly discussed but it is not something we should convey to external audiences at this stage."

Some have suggested that a vaccine must be developed for the Games to go ahead safely.

"We are part of this global community and it is natural to say that we are hoping to see the development of a vaccine, of course," Takaya said.

"We have been informed that a vaccine is not a required element in order to deliver the Games, according to the World Health Organization and the IOC.

"We have made it clear that we have a process in place."

The IOC and Tokyo 2020 have repeatedly said the Games will be simplified next year, as part of efforts to reduce costs created by the postponement.

Tokyo 2020 has reportedly identified 200 potential ideas where savings could be made.


Tokyo 2020 hope fans will be able to attend the Olympic and Paralympic Games next year ©Getty Images

Organisers have claimed athletes and sports will not be impacted by the measures taken to reduce costs.

Estimates have been made in Japan that the postponement of Tokyo 2020 could cost between $2 billion (£1.5 billion/€1.7 billion) to $6 billion (£4.6 billion/€5 billion), which would come on top of the ¥1.35 trillion (£9.5 billion/$12.6 billion/€11.4 billion) budgeted by Tokyo 2020 last year.

Takaya insisted estimates of the postponement costs were "speculative" and that organisers were not able to make a concrete announcement on the figures currently.

"After the simplification process we should be able to have a better picture, including the additional cost," he said.

"Concerning the timing to the release of such figures, we have not been able to make a concrete announcement at this stage.

"This is an unprecedented situation, so how we can release such figures is something we have to discuss with all the delivery partners."

Organisers have repeatedly stressed that they are including crowds in their planning for the rescheduled Games.

Leading officials from both the IOC and Tokyo 2020 have acknowledged holding events without spectators is a possibility.

Organisers confirmed earlier this month that spectators would be able to request refunds on tickets from autumn, should they be unable to attend competitions.

The sales of tickets for the Games are currently suspended, with Tokyo 2020 saying it is finalising plans over the ticketing process for the rescheduled event, amid monitoring of the situation around Covid-19.

Ticket sales were forecast to provide ¥90 billion (£657 million/$857 million/€727 million) in revenue.


Confidence and support for Tokyo 2020 among the Japanese public has dropped significantly since the outbreak of coronavirus but organisers claim they are sure it will return soon ©Getty Images

Takaya said organisers were examining public opinion surveys in Japan, amid differing opinions over whether the Games can take place as planned next year.

A recent Kyodo News survey found only 23.9 per cent of those polled said they supported the Games taking place in 2021, with 36.4 per cent of suggesting the Games should be further postponed.

A further 33.7 per cent said they wanted the Games cancelled.

Takaya claimed organisers were hopeful support would rise further when countermeasures for the Games can be announced.

"We are looking into the public opinion surveys," he told insidethegames.

"It is important how we highlight the surveys.

"From our perspective it is encouraging to see the one third of the population are willing to see the Games next year, despite the fact the international community is facing a global crisis.

"Another one third say they Games should be postponed, but they are willing to see the Games in some form.

"The result cannot be interpreted in a negative way and a good number of the population are supporting these Games.

"Once we have a better picture and the countermeasures, the number of public support can increase.

"It is very important for us to have a dialogue with the general public.

"We have to carefully manage our communication and show the development of our measures to help deliver the Games next year."

By Michael Pavitt