TOKYO: The COVID-19-delayed Tokyo Olympics will cost at least 1.64 trillion yen (US$15.9 billion), organisers said on Tuesday (Dec 22), as they unveiled a final budget swollen by the unprecedented postponement and a raft of pandemic measures.
The extra costs – up US$2.8 billion from figures released a year ago – come as officials work to build enthusiasm for the first Games postponed in peacetime.
The organisers took the unprecedented step of postponing the Olympics in March because of the pandemic, and the government of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who has declared he will host the Olympics “at any cost”, is pressing ahead with the preparations.
The Games are the legacy of the ex-premier Shinzo Abe, who resigned in September. Under his watch, Japan secured the Olympics and invested billions of dollars in their organisation, having gathered more than US$3 billion in domestic sponsorship.
A poll last week showed that a majority of Japanese oppose holding the Tokyo Games next year, favouring a further delay or outright cancellation of the massive event, and the latest budget could make the Tokyo Games the most expensive Summer Olympics in history.
Organisers, who have ruled out another delay and insist the Games can be held next year, defended the increased costs.
“Whether you see this budget as expensive or not depends on how you look at it,” said Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto.
“You can look at it from a cost perspective or an investment perspective. If you look at it purely in terms of cost, it doesn’t make sense. But if you look at it as a positive investment, I think there are areas where it can be identified as such.”
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Organisers have tried to scale back elements of the Games in a bid to save money, scrapping athlete welcome ceremonies and scrimping on the all-important “look” of the event.
But these savings – along with an expected US$735 million in extra revenue from sponsors and insurance payments – have been outweighed by a plethora of extra costs, from rebooking venues and transport to retaining the huge organising committee staff.
Organisers increased the service budget of the Games to US$7.1 billion, with extra money allotted for the opening and closing ceremonies, but the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has agreed to cover the costs of moving the marathon and race walking to northern Sapporo to beat Tokyo’s summer heat.
A US$929 million budget will cover coronavirus countermeasures, including the creation of an infection control centre in the Olympic Village – part of a blueprint announced earlier this month along with plans to regularly test athletes and ban cheering in venues.
“We want to build the best possible system by continuing to interact with the relevant organisations of doctors and nurses,” Muto told reporters.
“It’s still a big issue for us to secure as many medical staff as we hope for when faced with a situation where private medical institutions are struggling with management because of the coronavirus,” Muto said.
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Even before the postponement, the Olympics had gone above the initial budget with almost US$13 billion already spent, according to the organisers.
The COVID-19 countermeasures will include polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing infrastructure, setting up a clinic, as well as creating remote coverage setups and countermeasures at food and drink processing centres, the budget summary showed.
Some of the extra costs would be covered by the additional sponsorship and insurance. Organisers said they would also tap on a contingency fund detailed in last year’s budget to cover some costs.
“LIVING WITH THE VIRUS”
A study published earlier this year by Oxford University warned that the Tokyo Games could become the most expensive Summer Olympics ever.
The study calculated that the 2012 London Games was the most costly to date, with a US$14.96 billion price tag eclipsed only by the eye-watering US$21.89 billion spent on the Sochi Winter Games in 2014.
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“We are trying to hold a global event during a pandemic, and if we are able to do that, it would mean that we can co-exist with COVID-19,” said Muto.
“We would be able to provide a model for living with the virus, and I think in that sense this event can be a meaningful one.”
A poll released last week by Japanese national broadcaster NHK found just 27 per cent of respondents support holding the Games next year, with 32 per cent backing cancellation and 31 per cent favouring a further postponement.
Still, Tokyo’s governor Yuriko Koike told AFP last week she can see “no circumstances” under which the Games will be cancelled, despite rising infections in Japan.
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