The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games will not only be remembered for the coronavirus pandemic. They have also been the most expensive in history, the ones with the lowest audience, and the ones that have increased the rejection of new cities to host them. Although what was new were the arduous negotiations to postpone or cancel them, which have continued to develop until the last minute. A whole lesson for Sports Governance has given more relevance, if possible, to the profiles needed among experts in the decision-making.
Who is in charge of deciding?
The usual recommendation is that four be present at the negotiation:
- First, the pure scientist who only attends to data, which in this case has corresponded to epidemiologists,
- the referee who mediates between parties also requires specific diplomatic skills in the case of Olympism since one party involved is the political manager of the city and the country,
- the profile of the defender, and finally,
- the provider of alternatives, to find a solution that satisfies everyone.
The joint work of all has made it possible for them to be celebrated. The problem is that the city of Tokyo has ended up being the big loser.
Risk of cancellation
The reason is minor to the pandemic than how the benefits of the Olympic Games are distributed. And that allows us to understand why the Japanese authorities considered the cancellation from the beginning; they kept it one month from the celebration date. The International Olympic Committee (IOC), on the other hand, pressed against from minute one. The host city receives direct income from the sale of tickets to the stadiums and venues. It adds the consumption in hotels and leisure of the visitors who attend the games, plus the sponsors’ contribution. The IOC exclusively owns the TV broadcasting rights, which saves its budget even if the games are held without an audience.
Seventy-three percent of the Olympic committee’s income comes from broadcasting rights on television, radio, mobile, and internet platforms. In the 2013-2016 cycle, 5.7 billion dollars entered; the forecast for 2029-2032 is 4,100, the final figure for Tokyo 2020, when it shows its accounts, will not be far from those amounts. The game’s cancellation would have meant a significant economic loss, including the IOC’s bankruptcy and the end of the Olympism.
One of the most prominent members of the committee, Dick Pound, has denied that this would be the case. If Tokyo 2020 were not held, the insurers would cover their income and have no problem. It is true that they would have been saved from bankruptcy, but also that their income would have fallen, and that the negotiation of television rights for the following Olympics would have traded down. Its main interest, therefore, was to celebrate them, and it pushed in that sense.
Fear of a new lockdown
Japan, on the other hand, was afraid to take them in. Its fear was economic, but not of the loss estimated by the Nomura Research Institute (NRI), 15,964 million dollars, or the 20,000 that are now calculated as the final cost. They feared that a strong wave of coronavirus would force the country into new confinement, halting its economy again. That is why in March it was announced that there would be no foreign visitors. In June, with only 20% of its population vaccinated and the Delta variant spreading, the Olimpic Games would be held without an audience. The first bailout of 600 million would save the organising committee from bankruptcy. They also warned of a cancellation.
And it is that the Japanese could not be more unhappy. The initial rejection of 47% of the population had risen to 85%. So much so that the main sponsor, Toyota, withdrew its advertising campaign associated with the competition and resigned from attending the opening ceremony. And Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is at his lowest popularity rating, contributed to by his commitment to celebrating Tokyo 2020.
The current problem of Olympism
But not only has there been damage for Japan, but another reputation for Olympism. Since London 2012, fewer and fewer cities have wanted to host, as they consider that the investment costs are not compensated by the legacy left by the infrastructures or the city’s promotion to the world. Today the criticism increases, looking at the high bill of Tokyo 2020, but especially at the IOC, which has benefited. Not even the unprecedented measure they have taken, by contributing more than one billion to help the organising committee, has not avoided their image’s damage.
The public interest also wanes. The audience level has been deficient, and the only thing that has gone viral on networks has been the videos of athletes jumping on their cardboard beds in the Olympic village. And this is because the hoax was that the Japanese authorities had done so to avoid sexual encounters.
It is not Olympism that is failing, and the principles of the Olympic Charter remain valid—associating sport with culture and training to create a lifestyle based on the joy of effort and favour the establishment of a peaceful society committed to the maintenance of human dignity. The management model, not the principles that govern the Olympics, needs to be reviewed—quite a challenge for the Sports Governance.
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