Postponed Tokyo Olympics to cost extra $2.4bn

Organizers of the delayed Tokyo Olympics are declining to confirm widely circulated reports in Japan that the costs of the one-year postponement will be about $3 billion. (AP)
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Updated 04 December 2020

Postponed Tokyo Olympics to cost extra $2.4bn

  • The extra costs come as officials work to build enthusiasm for the first Games postponed in peacetime,
  • Tokyo 2020 said an additional $1.5 billion would be needed for operational costs related to the delay

TOKYO: The coronavirus-delayed Tokyo Olympics will cost at least an extra $2.4 billion, organizers said Friday, with the unprecedented postponement and a raft of pandemic health measures ballooning an already outsized budget.
The extra costs come as officials work to build enthusiasm for the first Games postponed in peacetime, insisting the massive event can go ahead next year even if the pandemic is not under control.
But more spending, on top of the previous budget of about $13 billion, could further harden public opinion in Japan, where polls this year showed a majority of people think the Games should be postponed again or canceled together.
“Whether it’s seen as too much or that we have done well to contain the costs, I think it depends on how you look at it,” Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto told reporters.
“We have done all we can to earn the public’s understanding,” he added.
Tokyo 2020 said an additional $1.5 billion would be needed for operational costs related to the delay, with another $900 million in spending on coronavirus countermeasures.
The dollar figures are calculated at an exchange rate of 107 yen, and the total is around $2.56 billion at today’s rate. The costs look set to rise further, with Tokyo 2020 saying it would also release an additional $250 million in “contingency” funds.

The new spending swells a budget that was set last year at around $13 billion, and will add to disquiet about the cost of the Games after an audit report last year argued the national government was spending significantly more than originally planned.
The extra costs will be split between Tokyo, the organizing committee and the national government. The International Olympic Committee will not be chipping in, but has agreed to waive its sponsor royalty fee for the first time, organizers said.
The unprecedented decision to delay the Games has thrown up a plethora of extra costs, from rebooking venues and transport to retaining the huge organizing committee staff.
And with organizers committed to hosting the Games even if the pandemic remains a threat, extensive safety measures will be needed.
Tokyo 2020 this week released a 54-page plan they said would make it possible to hold the Games, including restrictions on athletes touching and fans cheering, and an infection control center in the Olympic Village.
Organizers have tried to scale back elements of the Games, offering fewer free tickets, scrapping athlete welcome ceremonies and making savings on mascots, banners and meals, but so far they have cut just $280 million in spending.
And on Thursday, they said 18 percent of Olympic tickets sold in Japan will be refunded, with domestic fans demanding their money back on about 810,000 of the 4.45 million tickets sold in the country.

Organizers hope to now resell those tickets, and demand for seats at the Games was high before the pandemic.
But enthusiasm has since waned, with a poll in July revealing that just one in four people wanted to see the event held in 2021, and most backing either further delay or cancelation.
Tokyo 2020 President Yoshiro Mori said the spending plan was carefully considered and he hoped people would accept it.
“If you have a drink, you could say your glass is half-full, or half empty. It depends on how you look at it,” he told reporters.
“There’s a rationale behind this plan. I hope the Japanese people will understand it.”
Tokyo 2020’s final price tag has been hotly disputed, with an audit report last year estimating the national government spent nearly 10 times its original budget between 2013-2018.
Organizers countered that the estimate included items not directly related to the Games.


AFC Champions League groups to kickoff amid virus threat

Updated 44 min 3 sec ago

AFC Champions League groups to kickoff amid virus threat

  • Saudi Arabia’s Al-Wehda will enter qualification playoffs in March
  • 2021 is set to be the biggest yet with the group stage expanding from 32 to 40 teams

LONDON: The 2021 AFC Champions League group stage is set to start in April, with Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates in line, if necessary, to play host to multiple games as the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) looks for ways to safely complete its flagship tournament in the middle of a global pandemic.

It will be the second successive year that the tournament has been affected by the coronavirus. With the experience gained in 2020 when Qatar stepped in to host the remainder of the group and knockout stage after the competition was postponed earlier in the year, the AFC is confident that all will go smoothly.

Last year’s edition was eventually won by South Korea’s Ulsan Hyundai Horangi in December, but 2021 is set to be the biggest yet with the group stage expanding from 32 to 40 teams.

Saudi Arabia’s Al-Wehda will enter qualification playoffs in March, and if successful, will join Al-Nassr, Al-Ahli and 2019 champions Al-Hilal in the first round.

“The playoffs are scheduled to take place in March and the group stage in April,” an AFC official told Arab News. “We would prefer to host games in two or three cities in each region, but that depends on how the coronavirus situation develops. It may be that there are new rules put in place around Asia which mean that we will have to return to a single hub system.”

The continental competition is usually split into two geographic zones until the final. The group stage of the West Asian side of the tournament is set to take place over two weeks in the second half of April.

The eastern zone, which does not yet have a potential host nation and could again take place in the west, will start and finish
a week later.

Given what happened last year, the AFC is staying flexible on when and where the knockout stages will take place, especially as Asian national teams are expected to be busy with 2022 World Cup qualifiers in June. It is likely however that both east and west Asian teams will be mixed together from at least the quarterfinal stage onward.

The Champions League is not the only tournament affected by the global pandemic. On Friday, the Tajikistan Football Association announced that the AFC-U16 and U-19 Championships will be postponed.

The former was originally scheduled to take place in Bahrain last September and October before it was rearranged for March this year. It remains to be seen whether it happens at all, as the tournament was already planned to be the final edition of the U-16 competition, with the AFC moving to an U-17 version from 2023.

Saudi Arabia may have to wait to defend the AFC-U19 Championship that was won in 2018 as the tournament in Uzbekistan is also set to be, at the very least, postponed. Originally scheduled to be held last October, it was rearranged for March.

It is not only Asia that is striving to find ways to complete competitions in difficult circumstances. On Friday, FIFA announced that Auckland City had withdrawn from the Club World Cup that is set to kick off in Qatar in February. The Oceania champions will stay home due to travel restrictions put in place by the New Zealand government.

“FIFA has today been informed by Auckland City FC that, in light of the coronavirus pandemic and related quarantine measures required by the New Zealand authorities, the club will be unable to participate in the FIFA Club World Cup 2020,” the world governing body said in a statement.

“Despite FIFA’s regular exchanges with the club, New Zealand Football and the OFC in recent days, the requirements of the New Zealand authorities in relation to isolation and quarantine go beyond FIFA’s remit and, therefore, it was not possible to reach a solution.”

It means that Oceania’s representatives will miss their opening round showdown with Al-Duhail, representing the host nation, on Feb. 1. The Qataris will receive a bye to the second round and a match-up against either Al-Ahly of Egypt, South Korea’s Ulsan or Tigres of Mexico, the respective champions of Africa, Asia and CONCAFAF.

The draw will be made on Tuesday, with European representatives Bayern Munich and South America’s champions, to be determined on Jan. 30, placed in the semifinals.