By Jon Day
TOKYO, March 25 (Xinhua) -- The postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games for around a year amid the global spread of the coronavirus has come as little shock to the organizers, athletes and spectators of those involved in the quadrennial sporting spectacle, due to the severity of the situation.
If the Games were to go ahead as in their complete form as scheduled, they would be like no Olympics the world has ever seen, with a lack of athletes opting to participate in the Games, and a largely apathetic global audience possibly choosing not to watch the diluted events or the overall Games on TV or other media platforms.
For those who, prior to the coronavirus pandemic, were excited about Tokyo hosting the summer Games for the first time since 1964, there is a sense of relief that the event has not been cancelled outright despite a little bit disappointment that the world's biggest sports gala will be delayed.
But delaying the Olympics, while being the lesser of two evils concerning the go ahead of the event, is not without a myriad of problems, sports pundits and sources close to the matter have pointed out.
One of the biggest headaches for local organizers is the monumental task of rescheduling all the facilities, which include 43 competition venues and a host of peripheral locations, such as fan zones and media centers.
The venues, however, cannot be rescheduled until there is a firm date decided from which they will be used from, commentators here said, explaining that booking all the venues in the first place has been an extremely arduous and expensive process.
The delay of the Games will also see other major sporting events affected, with the "domino-effect" made worse as a fixed date for the Olympics is still pending, although it is slated to be held no later than one year later, at some point in 2021.
It will likely transpire that delaying the Olympics will adversely affect major sporting events next summer, including the European Football Championships and swimming's world championships. The World Athletics Championships may also have to be pushed back, with such competitions now all inheriting the myriad downside affects of the Olympics itself being postponed.
The organizers will now have the tricky task of overcoming the monumental logistical problems of pushing back the Games.
This is of primary concern to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, up until the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Tuesday evening finally agreed to postpone the Games, owing to major concerns over the global pandemic and under a growing pressure from major teams and athletes withdrawing and concerned citizens worldwide.
During talks with IOC President Thomas Bach, Abe has maintained that the summer Olympics should be postponed if they cannot be held in their complete form.
"If it is difficult to hold the games in such a way, we have to decide to postpone it, giving top priority to the health of the athletes," the Japanese leader told a parliamentary session.
"I think many of them are in areas where they cannot train properly as the new coronavirus is spreading in the world," Abe said earlier this week. "This applies not just to our country, it is important that all participating nations can participate in good condition."
Logistics, to a greater or lesser extent, is synonymous with financing. The Olympics being rescheduled will come with a hefty price tag, with sources within the organizing committee estimating that the total cost of the postponed Games standing in the region on 12 billion U.S. dollars, with it looking likely to balloon as the nation, within a year, will have to follow a to-be-confirmed "Plan B" for 2021.
The organization's reserve funds of 240 million U.S. dollars, sources close to the matter have said, will likely fall a long way short of the amount needed to reschedule and hold the Games in a form on par with its previous international standards, with taxpayers here somewhat perturbed about the government overspending on a Games that will now require more funding.
Major sponsors may not be able or, indeed, inclined to support a postponed Olympics, with many of them currently mulling the situation to see how things shape up in terms of the virus and the speed at which the delayed Games can get back on track.
"We represent possibly one of the biggest sponsors of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and have been running campaigns with increasing frequency on multiple media platforms over the past year or so," Global Project Director of a progressive advertising agency in London, known for its digital engagements, told Xinhua by phone.
"We are now in discussions as to how to proceed. There is scope, but everything we have pitched and delivered so far has been done with a final installation in mind to go ahead this summer, not next. It would be like starting from scratch and will require a new budget from the client," the director said, requesting anonymity.
The head of Japan's largest business federation, Hiroaki Nakanishi, on Wednesday said that it will make its utmost efforts to support the Games' rescheduling, stating that, "We have many issues to resolve. For example, an additional sponsorship burden. But, we will give our best efforts for the Games."
While the intentions are undoubtedly positive, at this stage a lot of the talk is merely rhetoric, with concrete figures and dates needed by the government to in turn re-inspire and reassure investors, sponsors, spectators and athletes.
The latter of these have had a tough time since the global spread of COVID-19 and were relieved as the Games were postponed somewhat earlier than the IOC's four-week "scenario exploration window".
Athletes across the world would have been training relentlessly to peak for the now postponed Games, meaning training schedules will have to be adjusted to a year later, although without a fixed date to go by, the pinpoint, scientific accuracy of training programs cannot be devised or followed, as would be the case under normal circumstances.
The fact also remains as well that some athletes have qualified for the Games scheduled this summer, but have been left wondering if they will still be the best choices in a year or so? Will their prior qualifications see them through to a new Games possibly held a year later? Or will the qualification processes have to be held again?
There is, understandably, a sense of confusion, relief and frustration about the Games' current predicament felt among athletes.
Hiromi Miyake, a medal winner at the last two Games, is concerned now that the delay to the event may jeopardize her fifth straight Olympics.
Miyake, 34, said she felt totally depressed, adding that a year is a long time, and is weighing heavily on the one hand. But on the other, the extra time could be a bonus enabling extra time for her to prepare, and, from this perspective, could be seen as a positive.
For Atsushi Yamamoto, a two-time Paralympic men's long jump silver medalist, the situation is purely positive. Yamamoto believes the Games being delayed works as an advantage as it gives him more time to train and hone his skills.
Conceding all the difficulties now facing the delayed Games, Japanese Olympic Committee President Yasuhiro Yamashita said Wednesday he hopes all the athletes, for their part, would support the postponement despite their mixed feelings due to the global pandemic.
He conceded that the decision was made earlier than expected, and hopes the athletes would come to understand that the delay was agreed upon to guarantee their health and safety in planning to compete in one of the world's biggest and most historical sporting events.