Olympics to be held ‘at any cost’, says minister

Olympics to be held ‘at any cost’, says minister

TOKYO • The Tokyo Games should be held next year “at any cost” given athletes’ efforts to be ready, Japan’s Olympics Minister said yesterday.

The reaffirmation came a day after the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) John Coates told Agence France Presse that the postponed 2020 Games would go ahead “with or without Covid”.

“For the Games next year, athletes are continuing to work hard in the environments they find themselves in. So I feel we have to hold it at any cost,” Mrs Seiko Hashimoto said when asked about the IOC vice-president’s remarks.

“Mr Coates felt reassured that the Tokyo Games can be held with further close coordination of efforts.”

Coates on Monday said in an exclusive interview that he was confident the quadrennial Olympics, which were pushed back for the first time, would open as planned next July, vowing they will be the “Games that conquered Covid”.

Masa Takaya, the spokesman for the Tokyo 2020 organisers, did not comment directly on whether they agreed with that assessment.

However, he said that the remarks showed “that the IOC team is fully committed to delivering the Games next year”.

But despite the bullish stance, there are pressing issues. Japan’s borders are still largely closed to foreign visitors and a vaccine is months or even years away, feeding speculation about whether the Games are feasible at all.

Uncertainty also surrounds the future of Games sponsorship.

Sources have told Reuters that organisers have not extended deals which are set to expire by December, leaving some sponsors to question whether to continue, given the additional costs involved.

It is a double-edged sword though, as sponsors fear damaging their image by abandoning a politically important national project.

“The delay threw financial plans for the Games into disarray and many companies really don’t want to pay any more,” said an insider.

Sponsors expect the contract extension negotiations to be fraught, said two more sources, both from sponsors.

Organisers raised a record US$3.1 billion (S$4.3 billion) in sponsorship money from across Japan through the efforts of advertising powerhouse Dentsu, but many companies are reeling from the Covid-19 economic fallout.

Reuters could not establish the additional cost of the extension fees, but local sponsors’ contracts cover only Tokyo 2020, unlike a smaller number of worldwide sponsors.

On the issue, organisers said they were “asking our partners for their ongoing support”.