IOC gets official look at simplification for Tokyo Olympics

The executive board of the International Olympic Committee is expected to review the proposed cuts on Wednesday. (File/AFP)
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Updated 06 October 2020

IOC gets official look at simplification for Tokyo Olympics

  • Organizers and the IOC say they had already slashed several billion dollars in costs before the Olympics were postponed
  • Tokyo and the IOC have not offered an estimate of the savings

TOKYO: The IOC and local organizers are trying to “simplify” the postponed Tokyo Olympics, promising to save money in what one study says is already the most expensive Summer Olympics on record.
The executive board of the International Olympic Committee is expected to review the proposed cuts on Wednesday. They include about 50 changes to fringe areas that leave the number of athletes — 15,400 for the Olympics and Paralympics — and all sports events untouched for next year.
Also largely untouched will be the opening and closing ceremonies, the heavily sponsored 121-day torch relay, and competition areas that will be seen on television broadcasts. This means the so-called field of play, and areas immediately adjacent.
Some of the proposed cuts listed in a detailed document from the organizers include: fewer decorative banners; a 10-15% reduction in “stakeholders” delegation sizes; five fewer international interpreters from a staff of 100; fewer shuttle buses; reduction in hospitality areas; suspension in production of mascot costumes; cancelation of official team welcome ceremonies.
Big savings are not easy to find.
Organizers and the IOC say they had already slashed several billion dollars in costs before the Olympics were postponed six months ago because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This included moving events to existing venues rather than building new facilities.
Most of the big-ticket spending had already taken place, such as the $1.43 billion national stadium, and the $520 million swimming venue.
“We have many measures, and sometimes they look small. But when you take them all together it will represent a large result in terms of both simplification and hopefully ... produce some significant savings,” Christophe Dubi, the IOC executive director for the Olympic Games, said late last month when the plans were presented in Tokyo.
Dubi said a search for more cuts would continue.
Tokyo and the IOC have not offered an estimate of the savings, but estimates in Japan put them at 1-2% of official spending of $12.6 billion. However, a government audit last year said the real cost of the Olympics might be twice that much.
All of the costs for putting on the Olympics come largely from public money with the exception of $5.6 billion from a privately financed local operating budget. About 60% of the income in this budget — $3.3 billion — comes from payments from 68 domestic sponsors.
Organizing committee CEO Toshiro Muto acknowledged last month for the first time that some sponsors have backed out in the midst of a slumping economy, the pandemic, and uncertainty around the Olympics really happening.
“I can’t say that all contracts have been renewed,” he said.
Any shortfall in this privately funded operating budget will have to be made up from somewhere else. The document handed out last month by organizers showed them considering “measures to increase” donations to make up for lost income.
To keep sponsors on board, the IOC and local organizers have talked confidently in the last several months about the Olympics opening as planned on July 23, 2021.
Yoshiro Mori, the president of the organizing committee, acknowledged last month that some were hoping for more cuts, while others will be satisfied with the modest savings.
“It’s like a glass half-filled, or half empty,” he said. “We wanted to save, but there were so many thing that have already been determined.”
Organizers have said it won’t be until the end of the year, or early in 2021, when detailed steps will be announced about how to hold the Olympics in the midst of a pandemic. This will include decisions about attendance by local fans, non-Japanese fans, and rules under which athletes will enter Japan, vaccines, quarantines, and so forth.
Japan has reported about 1,600 deaths from COVID-19 and has had strict entry rules in place for citizens from 159 countries.


COVID-19 problems mount for Australian Open as four more participants test positive

Updated 18 January 2021

COVID-19 problems mount for Australian Open as four more participants test positive

  • Officials said more cases may come to light as testing continues
  • ‘It’s time to be selfish, time for Victoria to put ourselves first’

MELBOURNE: More players were forced into hard quarantine ahead of the Australian Open with officials confirming on Monday that four additional participants, including an athlete, tested positive for COVID-19 among those arriving in Melbourne.
Health authorities in Victoria state have now reported nine infections among passengers who arrived on charter flights for the Feb. 8-21 Australian Open and officials said more cases may come to light as testing continues.
“All four are associated with the tennis, and they’re all tucked away safely in hotel quarantine,” Victoria state premier Daniel Andrews told reporters of the new cases.
Passengers on three Australian Open charter flights were sent into hard quarantine, including over 70 players who will be unable to train for 14 days ahead of the year’s first Grand Slam.
Players have come up with unique ways to pass time and stay fit in isolation with some hitting balls against a mattress and running sprints in corridors.
Others are allowed five hours outside their hotel rooms each day for preparation, in line with arrangements made by organizers Tennis Australia with health authorities.
But several among those, including Australia’s top-ranked player Alex de Minaur, were unable to train on courts on Monday due to logistics issues with transport.
De Minaur, who returned home after winning an ATP title in Turkey last week, posted a video on Instagram of himself sitting at the front door of his hotel room dressed fully in his practice attire.
“It’s been a challenging few days as we’ve worked with the relevant authorities managing the logistics to ensure everyone is safe as practice begins,” TA said in a statement, adding that transport issues were later sorted out.
“Our team is continuing to work with the authorities to help in any way we can. We understand this has been frustrating for the players and apologize.”
The growing infection count has sparked calls from pundits to cancel the Grand Slam.
“It’s time to be selfish, time for Victoria to put ourselves first,” 3AW radio broadcaster Neil Mitchell said.
“Call off the Australian Open. It’s not worth the risk.”
Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley said on Sunday the tournament would start as scheduled.
Many Australians have questioned the decision to host the tournament with organizers flying in 1,200 tennis players and their entourages Down Under when thousands of citizens are stranded overseas due to the pandemic.
Andrews said the government still supported holding the Grand Slam and backed health officials to deliver it safely.
“We think we’ve struck the appropriate balance,” he said.
“If there was a sense from the public health team that that balance could not be struck, that it was too high a risk, well then we wouldn’t have had the event.”
Some players complained about quarantine conditions and said they had not been advised that they would not be allowed to train if there were cases on their flights.
Frenchwoman Alize Cornet, however, apologized after social media users hit out at her for criticizing the strict health protocols.
Two-time men’s wheelchair Grand Slam champion Gordon Reid said those “kicking up a fuss” are in a minority.
A Spanish tennis website reported that world number one Novak Djokovic had written to Tiley asking that quarantine restrictions be eased for players, including reducing the mandatory 14 days of isolation and having players moved to “private houses with tennis courts” so they could train.
The report drew a backlash from Australians on social media, with Djokovic and players told to check their “privilege.”
Andrews said the biosecurity protocols would not be changed.
“It doesn’t mean that everyone likes them, but that’s not the world we’re in,” he said. “This is a wildly infectious pandemic. There are rules that need to be followed.”
Tennis Australia and Djokovic’s team did not respond to request for comment.
Australia’s biggest outbreak of COVID-19 started from returned travelers infecting staff at quarantine hotels in Melbourne last year but border closures and speedy tracking systems helped keep numbers relatively low.
The country has reported a total of more than 28,600 cases and some 909 deaths since the pandemic began.