A boy walks around an information center in Yokohama's Chinatown. Photo: AP/Jae C Hong
2020 tokyo olympics

No Plan B for Olympics; questions remain over Chinese presence

26 Comments
By STEPHEN WADE and MARI YAMAGUCHI

Tokyo Olympic organizers and the International Olympic Committee said Friday there is no "Plan B" for the 2020 Games, which open in just over five months and have been jolted by the outbreak of a virus in neighboring China.

The coronavirus has infected almost 64,000 people globally with almost 1,400 deaths in China, but only one in Japan where fear is rising with so much attention focused on the outbreak.

"Certainly the advice we're received externally from the WHO (World Health Organization) is that there's no case for any contingency plans or cancelling the games or moving the games," John Coates, the head of an IOC inspection team, said to wrap up a two-day visit that was dominated by the virus issue.

Coates and Tokyo Olympic organizers took 11 questions at a news conference on Friday. All 11 were about the virus, or the presence of Chinese athletes in 19 remaining test events in Japan, or about Chinese fans, or repeated questions seeking reassurance the games will go ahead as planned.

A Japanese reporter asked Tokyo organizing committee President Yoshiro Mori if, given the fact the games are going ahead, would there be any "organizational changes" in how the games are run.

"No, at this stage, no. We are not thinking of any such possibility," said Mori, a former Japanese prime minister, speaking in Japanese.

Mori, Coates and CEO Toshiro Muto looked glum sitting at a head table taking essentially the same question over and over.

"We can confirm that Tokyo 2020 remains on track," Coates said in his opening statement.

Coates was asked by a CNN reporter if he was 100% confident that the Tokyo Olympics would go on as scheduled and open on July 24.

"Yes," he replied.

Coates talked positively about keeping a close watch on Chinese athletes, and talked optimistically about their eventual presence in Tokyo, where they would probably field a team of 600 athletes - one of the largest delegations.

"We continue also to monitor, particularly the Chinese that will be coming here," Coates said. "You'll find that the Chinese teams are mostly out of China. That's the athletes and officials."

He didn't offer any specific numbers.

Others away from the Olympic circle are uncertain what course the virus outbreak will take.

"Frankly speaking, there is no guarantee that the outbreak will come to an end before the Olympics because we have no scientific basis to be able to say that," Shigeru Omi, a former regional director of the WHO and an infectious disease expert from Japan, said Thursday.

"So it is meaningless to predict a timing when it may come to an end," he added. "We should assume that the virus has already been spreading in Japan. People should understand that we cannot only rely on border controls to prevent the spread of the disease."

Dr. Mike Ryan, WHO chief of emergencies, said at a news conference Friday in Switzerland that WHO only offers technical advice and it's up to the IOC and organizers to make decisions related to the Olympics.

"We have not offered advice to the IOC for the Olympics one way or another," he said. "And neither would we. That's not the role of WHO to call off - or not call off - any event. It is the role of WHO to offer technical advice."

Mark Woolhouse, a professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh, told The Associated Press in an email: "I don't think anyone right now can confidently predict the state of affairs come late summer."

"One slight word of caution," he added. "Influenza is regarded as a winter infection in the northern hemisphere. But when we encountered a new strain in 2009-10 - pandemic strain, or swine flu - we did see cases in the summer months."

That is not particularly good news, where many talk of the hot, humid Tokyo summer taking its toll on the virus.

The AP requested but was declined an interview with Dr. Richard Budgett, the IOC's medical and scientific director who was in Tokyo for the meetings.

The dynamic growth of the Olympics makes any schedule change difficult.

About 73% of the IOC's $5.7 billion revenue in a four-year Olympic cycle comes from broadcasting rights from networks like NBC and NHK in Japan. Moving the Olympics back even two months would clash in North America with a full plate of sports broadcasts: NFL, NBA, baseball, and college football.

There is also the matter of millions of tickets sold, flights and hotels booked, and $3 billion in local sponsorship sold in Japan with advertisers expecting some results for their expenditure.

A reporter for the Chinese news agency Xinhua asked if Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba - a major Olympic sponsor - would be free to come to the Olympics despite the fact he is from one of the two provinces has been the most severely affected by the virus.

"Depends where he'll be holidaying before he comes here," Coates said, cracking one of the few jokes of the night. "Whoever it is has to comply with the rules of the Japanese (immigration) authorities."

© Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.


26 Comments
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Total head in the sand, without a plan B the only option is to cancel. Not allowing Chinese in isn't a solution since the virus has spread from non contact with Chinese people.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

There is a totally valid option and that is to organize in 2021. There is no reason not to do that. Extra real cost is n’t a problem. Using hotel and flight booking as an excuse is ridiculous as cancellations are poring in. Sponsors can’t get confirmations from their hospitality guests.

no problem for the broadcasters if they are informed by mid April. Postponing with a few months, that is not an option.

my company has prepared a study and it is a totally viable and sensible option to move to 2021

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I feel bad for Japan if the virus isn't stopped soon. The Olympics is a huge deal and my plan is to visit Tokyo in May. Would hate to postpone.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

This is a BRILLIANT solution to the problem. So Japanese! Thus way, if you adopt a harsh plan B that offends people or CANCEL the Olympics (to like, save lives), well, you avoid criticism and blame, you avoid disharmony! A crime--creating disharmony, you know! I am sure our dear viligant moderators will call this Japan bashing, but let us call this as it is.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

There is also the matter of millions of tickets sold, flights and hotels booked, and $3 billion in local sponsorship sold in Japan with advertisers expecting some results for their expenditure.

That’s what we call “risk”. If you want to reduce your risk, buy insurance. The advertisers will pay according to their contracts. Visitors will pay for hotel rooms according to their agreements with hotels. Etc.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

URSS and now Chinese? omg

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

No plan “b”, so it is perfectly veracious to assume that the Tokyo organizing/ International Olympic Committee have neglected to carry out a comprehensive public health risk assessment, for mass human exposure to coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

“Frankly speaking, there is no guarantee that the outbreak will come to an end before the Olympics because we have no scientific basis to be able to say that,” Shigeru Omi, a former regional director of the WHO and an infectious disease expert from Japan, said Thursday.

“So, it is meaningless to predict a timing when it may come to an end," he added. "We should assume that the virus has already been spreading in Japan. People should understand that we cannot only rely on border controls to prevent the spread of the disease.”

Mori, Coates and CEO Toshiro Muto, weasel words, confirm there only concern/top priority is manifest in these two paragraphs.

About 73% of the IOC's $5.7 billion revenue in a four-year Olympic cycle comes from broadcasting rights from networks like NBC and NHK in Japan. Moving the Olympics back even two months would clash in North America with a full plate of sports broadcasts: NFL, NBA, baseball, and college football.

There is also the matter of millions of tickets sold, flights and hotels booked, and $3 billion in local sponsorship sold in Japan with advertisers expecting some results for their expenditure.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

The only true winners from the Olympics are the companies that were contracted to build stuff. They’ve been paid and that’s that.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

If I were an Olympic athlete in an area likely to get wu-flu, I'd try to catch it ASAP, so it would be over it ASAP and could get back to training.

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

There is only two options, complete cancellation, or to postpone.

Look if one stands in front of a fast-moving train, one either moves quickly out of its path or one succumbs to playing the harp in the choir invisible.

It is that simple.

The Tokyo organizing/ International Olympic Committee is not in a position to negotiate truce to a low the games to proceed, with a virulent viral disease.   

Any doubts please read….

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak

https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

There is no way the games will be cancelled or moved. There is also no way the Chinese athletes will be banned. It's likely to result in boycotts by many countries as well. The only answer is to get their fingers out and develop a vaccine for coronavirus and unsure everybody is vaccinated before the games. However, I fear this will never happen and the games will produce a global epidemic of this strain of coronavirus. How bloody wonderful, NOT!!

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Paranoia.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Its 6 freaking months away. much ado about nothing. I bet we will look back on this in August and scantily remember a cruise ship and some bat in a wet market.

-8 ( +1 / -9 )

There is also the matter of millions of tickets sold, flights and hotels booked, and $3 billion in local sponsorship sold in Japan with advertisers expecting some results for their expenditure.

it's called insurance. You pay it so that you can cancel. That's what it's for. Travellers and businesses would already have it

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Ironic that in a country where it's never too early to take a wait-and-see attitude, it's also never too early to begin speculating on the basis of incomplete information.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

hmmmm, only one place to be ... 'on the edge of our seats' to be sure ...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Typical Japan with no Plan B. I remember years back I was on my way to work on a day that was raining cats and dogs, and at the station were kids and a teacher all wearing backpacks presumably going to Mt. Takao for a hike. I overheard the teacher saying, "どうしょうか?" Like the possibility of rain never crossed their minds.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I purchased tickets, no point going into details, the costs are significant.....for the opportunity to witness an/the ultimate festival of sport, yes, on ones own doorstep.

Also motivationally, a surprise for my nephews and nieces, and additional kith and kin.

There is no available travel risk insurance to recover these costs.

Read the small print, personal liability to enter a zone, and the risk at the time of purchase, that could prevaricate a definable contagion risk.

Then there is the question of Government liability.

And most importantly ones own behavior.......Significantly, how that translates into legally answerable responsibility.

This potentially could become a lawyers charter. Open to a prolonged legislative procedure with the inevitable costs to peruse a refund.

I could recover some of the costs on the ticket resell market. However I frankly don't want that on my conscience.

“Money”, it could be the death of us all.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I'm guessing they do have or are developing a Plan B, but aren't publicising the fact right now as they watch how the scenario develops. For all their faults - and there are many - these people aren't completely stupid, and are as vulnerable to losing face as anyone else. They don't want that to happen more than they're worried about the Olympics starting on the scheduled date.

Watch for subtle shifts in nuance over the next few weeks if the epidemic doesn't show genuine signs of subsiding.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

All I can say after reading the article is, WHAT no plan B? You would think after spending all that money for a 2 week event there would be a plan a,b,c,d, ect. You get it.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

If the scientists work efficiently, there should be a sensitive antibody-based test in place by then, do screening a large number of people would be feasible. If an individual tested positive, a more sensitive test such as qpcr could be given to find out if there is an active infection. This would have to be mandatory, though, and will require cooperation among scientists.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

do-so

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It is not sure at all that the Corona scare is over by summer, so this looks like it will be a quite Olympic event. Too bad tax payers still have to pay for it.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

there is no plan b because plan a is all about maximizing profits. plan b would involve additional costs (to a budget that has already quadrupled from initial estimates) as well as lost revenue, so it's off the table.

what the IOC neglects to realize is that this isn't about Japan anymore. this is about what happens when athletes and citizens from less developed countries who don't have the education, technology, experience or expertise in dealing with an unknown virus contract the disease and bring it back to their home countries. what then?

how many deaths are considered an acceptable level of collateral damage so that people can watch some other people run around a track and lifting heavy things?... 1 death is a tragedy but 1000 deaths is a statistic, right?

let's be honest here. the IOC is a corrupt organization. they take bribes, they take profits, they force host countries to play by their rules and then when the circus leaves town the IOC is nowhere to be seen helping clean up because it's already on to the next scam.

i didn't want the olympics here to start with. there was a stink attached to the event before it was even awarded and that festering stink keeps getting worse as the olympics approach. the IOC not getting their payday would be poetic justice.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

A Japanese reporter asked Tokyo organizing committee President Yoshiro Mori if, given the fact the games are going ahead, would there be any "organizational changes" in how the games are run.

"No, at this stage, no. We are not thinking of any such possibility," said Mori, a former Japanese prime minister, speaking in Japanese.

No plan B. This is exactly the bloody mindedness that has caused issues with the linked corruption & climate denial in the selection, and consequent moving of events. If it is an issue later, who will be thrown under the bus, not Mori I'm sure.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Whether the games are a flop or not rests mostly with the few dozen star athletes and their multimillion dollar sponsors who will want to protect their valuable investment. If it becomes clear that the superstars refuse to show up, the IOC and Coca Cola might be convinced to postpone for another year.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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