Postponed Olympics to cost extra USD2.4B

TOKYO (AFP) – The coronavirus-delayed Tokyo Olympics will cost at least an extra USD2.4 billion, organisers said yesterday, 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 could further harden public opinion in Japan, where polls this year showed a majority of people think the Games should be postponed again or cancelled altogether.

“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 USD1.5 billion would be needed for operational costs related to the delay, with another USD900 million in spending on coronavirus countermeasures. The dollar figures are calculated at an exchange rate of JPY107, and the total is around USD2.56 billion at today’s rate. The costs look set to rise further, with Tokyo 2020 saying it would also release an additional USD250 million in “contingency” funds.

The new spending swells a budget that was set last year at around USD13 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 planned.

The extra costs will be split between Tokyo, the organising 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, organisers said.

Tokyo 2020 President Yoshiro Mori (L) chats with Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike (C), and Olympic Minister Seiko Hashimoto prior to an opening plenary session of the three-party meeting on Tokyo 2020 Games additional costs due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in Tokyo. PHOTO: AFP

The unprecedented decision to delay the Games has thrown up a plethora of extra costs, from rebooking venues and transport to retaining the huge organising committee staff.

And with organisers 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 centre in the Olympic Village.

Organisers 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 USD280 million in spending.

They said 18 per cent 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.