Olympic organisers outline plan for scaled-back Games

Olympic organisers outline plan for scaled-back Games

TOKYO • Welcome ceremonies for athletes will be scrapped and flashy spectacles axed at a scaled-back Tokyo 2020 Games, organisers said yesterday, but a senior Olympic official insisted the event “has to happen”.

Fewer free tickets and savings on banners, mascots and fireworks are among more than 50 cost-cutting measures agreed by organisers and Olympic officials, less than a year before the virus-postponed event begins next July.

Despite the complications and extra costs of the delay, and continued uncertainty about how the Games can be held safely, International Olympic Committee (IOC) vice-president John Coates said cancellation was not an option.

“It would have been very easy for you to say, ‘This isn’t possible’,” he said via video link after a meeting of organisers and Olympic officials in Tokyo.

“But I think we all share the view that this has to be possible… because we cannot disregard a generation of Olympic athletes.”

Documents released by organisers painted a picture of a less-than-opulent event, with the size of behind-the-scenes delegations reduced by 10 to 15 per cent, and perks cut back.

Presentation ceremonies to introduce each sport should be produced in “bare-minimum quality and quantity”, the documents said, while welcoming ceremonies for Olympic and Paralympic teams will be scrapped altogether.

The number of athletes will not be reduced, organisers pledged, but officials, press and others involved with the Games will be given fewer complimentary tickets to the opening and closing ceremonies.

Changes to the usually dazzling contents of those events are also under review.

“What was initially proposed (for the ceremonies) has been drastically changing,” said Yoshiro Mori, president of the Tokyo 2020 organising committee.

“Maybe it will end up a bit more modest and simple, but I hope it will be something that gives joy.”

Tokyo 2020’s latest budget is for US$12.6 billion (S$17.35 billion) – with costs set to balloon further as venues and transport must be re-booked, and staff retained for an extra year.

Other cost-cutting plans include giving athletes less time to train at venues, and consolidating security points, raising the possibility of longer queues for bag checks.

Coates described the revised plans as a blueprint for “a new Games, fit for a post-corona world” that could be used in future.

“We’re going to leave an important legacy which we’re calling the Tokyo Model,” he added.

On how to safely hold the Games if the pandemic is not under control, Coates said measures including regular Covid-19 testing and mandatory vaccination – if a vaccine is available – were among the possibilities discussed.