The postponement of the 2020 Olympic Games calls into a bigger question about what’s happening across the world with the COVID-19 outbreak.
The official announcement has been made: the 2020 Olympics are going to be postponed.
The International Olympic Committee’s executive board admitted it had begun considering postponing — but not canceling. An early report by USA Today columnist Christine Brennan had first declared that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Dick Pound had admitted through a telephone interview that on the basis of the information the IOC has at hand, postponement had been decided without determining the parameters going forward, but he confirmed that the Game were not going to start on July 24th. SB Nation reports that initially the IOC had been firm on wanting to wait until late April before deciding whether the games should be cancelled, postponed or moved.
Now, through a statement, the Olympic committee said President Bach and Prime Minister Abe had decided an official postponement, expressing their shared concern about the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, and what it is doing to people’s lives and the significant impact it is having on global athletes’ preparations for the Games. The report reads that aside from accepting the games be postpones, leaders agreed that the Olympic Games in Tokyo could stand as a beacon of hope to the world during these troubled times and that the Olympic flame could become the light at the end of the tunnel in which the world finds itself at present. It was also agreed that the Olympic flame will stay in Japan. It was also agreed that the Games will keep the name Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.
Canada also announced it would not send athletes to the 2020 games due to the coronavirus pandemic. Australia also reportedly told athletes something similar, indicating the games will likely be delayed and eventually take place in the summer of 2021.
What this means for athletes and business
SB Nation adds that postponing the games involves much more than simply telling athletes to wait, which is likely why the IOC took its time. Athletes have been preparing for years to be ready to compete in the summer of 2020, with potential postponement throwing off their training regimen. In addition, there are issues with broadcasting rights, volunteer availability and the numerous disruptions to daily working life that come with the Olympics, and may be difficult to ameliorate following widespread shutdown of services and businesses due to the coronavirus.
What it means for economy and prestige
According to CNBC, Fitch Solutions stated in a report that the postponement or cancellation of the Tokyo Olympics Games could deal “a huge blow to Japan’s economy and prestige.”
“Although the Japanese government would not necessarily be viewed negatively for postponing or cancelling the games, it would rob Prime Minister (Shinzo) Abe of a potential major national celebration in 2020 as he prepares to step down in September 2021,” the analysts said in a note dated Mar. 17. “Conversely, maintaining the Olympic Games could upset a significant portion of the population who may fear a second wave of infection as Japan would welcome athletes, staff and tourists from around the world.”
Other points of view see a moderate impact, especially “As construction is complete, that impact is already reflected in past GDP data and won’t change,” said Oxford Economics’ Stefan Angrick to CNBC via email. The question then, he added, is how a postponement would impact inbound tourism and consumption. “But considering the situation we’re in, with tourism coming to a virtual standstill and consumption set to decline, the additional impact of postponing the Olympics is fairly modest.”
Kathy Matsui, chief Japan strategist at Goldman Sachs, told CNBC’s Street Signs: “I think if the games do have to be postponed, that calls into a bigger question about what’s happening in the rest of the world and that probably is a reflection that the COVID-19 situation is not improving. That, I think, has bigger impact on Japanese export demand and obviously domestic consumption and business activity as well.”
After his telephone talks with IOC President Bach, PM Abe spoke to the press and explained that the two have agreed that the Tokyo Olympic Games would not be cancelled, and the games will be held by the summer of 2021. pic.twitter.com/ihe8To2g3R
— PM's Office of Japan (@JPN_PMO) March 24, 2020