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Olympics

Postponing Tokyo Games could cost $6 billion. Officials wrangle over who will foot the bill

The Olympic rings in Tokyo, which had to postpone the Games.
The decision to postpone the Tokyo Olympic Games until 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered unexpected costs for organizers in Japan.
(Philip Fong / AFP via Getty Images)

With the postponement of the Tokyo Summer Games triggering potentially massive expenses, a war of words has broken out between Olympic leaders and local organizers.

Media reports in Japan estimate that shifting the international competition to the summer of 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic could cost between $2 billion and $6 billion. There has been some uncertainty about who will pay for what.

On the International Olympic Committee’s website, on a Q&A page, a now-revised post suggested that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had agreed his country would “continue to cover the costs it would have done under the terms of the existing agreement for 2020, and the IOC will continue to be responsible for its share of the costs.”

Organizers took exception to this wording during a teleconference on Tuesday.

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“It is not appropriate for the prime minister’s name to be quoted in this manner,” a Tokyo 2020 spokesman said, according to the Associated Press.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga also told Kyodo News that Abe had not agreed Japan would cover additional costs.

The IOC subsequently revised the content on its website.

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“The Japanese government has reiterated that it stands ready to fulfill its responsibility for hosting successful Games,” the post now reads. “At the same time, the IOC has stressed its full commitment to successful Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. The IOC and the Japanese side, including the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee, will continue to assess and discuss jointly about the respective impacts caused by the postponement.”

The host city contract that both sides signed in 2013 appeared to place “all obligations” on organizers, Japan’s national Olympic committee and the city of Tokyo.

Japan’s state of emergency will cover seven prefectures, including Tokyo, but without hard lockdowns, and comes with a $1-trillion stimulus package.

IOC officials have estimated that their additional costs will reach into the hundreds of millions of dollars, leaving billions more to be paid.

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These unforeseen expenses arise at a time when Japan’s economy has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. Organizers say they have already spent $12.6 billion on the Games, though an independent estimate put the total at twice that amount.


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