IOC President Thomas Bach speaks to media during a visit to the National Stadium, the main venue for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, on Tuesday, Photo: Behrouz Mehri/Pool via AP

Tokyo Olympics: Q&A on vaccines, fans, qualifying and costs


We're at the halfway point. The Tokyo Olympics were postponed eight months ago, and now are to open in eight months: July 23, 2021. Crunch time is coming.

Tokyo organizers and International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach have spoken vaguely about how the Games can take place in the midst of a pandemic. Plans and dozens of “scenarios” have been drawn up about COVID-19 countermeasures: possible quarantines, vaccines, safe distancing, and making the Athletes' Village a safe “bubble environment.”

These ideas will have to become concrete solutions beginning next month and into early 2021.

Hanging in the balance are 11,000 Olympic athletes and 4,400 Paralympians. The IOC depends on the these Games since 91% of its revenue if from selling TV rights and sponsorships.

Here are some questions and answers about where the Olympics stand on several fronts.

Q: Bach was in Tokyo this week and said vaccines and rapid testing are on the horizon, which Bach believes will make it much easier to hold the Games. Will athletes be required to take a vaccine to compete?

A: Bach says “no.” But athletes and any official or fan going to Japan will be under pressure to get vaccinated. Officials are suggesting athletes will not face a 14-day quarantine after entering Japan.

IOC Vice President John Coates said the IOC and national Olympic committees will be looking for “role models” among athletes to encourage vaccination. Bach says healthcare workers are a priority for the vaccine ahead of athletes. IOC officials have also suggested vaguely that the Switzerland-based body will pick up some of the vaccination costs. As is often the case, there has been nothing specific.

Q: Will fans be allowed into venues?

A: We still don't know. Bach says he expects a “reasonable” number of fans to be able to attend events. There is still no decision announced on allowing thousand of fans from abroad to attend. There is the health issue. But there is also pressure on the operating budget to allow as many fans as possible. The budget foresees $800 million in revenue from ticket sales — the third largest income item. Japan has been successful holding sports events with some fans, at times at the 70-80% capacity level.

Q: How many athletes have already qualified for the Olympics.

A: Officials say 57% of the slots are full. So many have not yet qualified, and many qualifying events have been scrapped by the pandemic. It's clear athletes in some countries have a better chance to train than others. This could leave an uneven playing field and could also force some slots in the Olympics to be awarded without a traditional qualifying event. This is part of the “collateral damage” to the Olympics from the pandemic.

Q: Who is paying for the delay and the rising costs?

A: The IOC, organizers, and local politicians seldom talk about the costs. Japan says it's officially spending $12.6 billion to organize the Olympics. But a government audit last year said it was twice that. All but $5.6 billion is public money. Over and above this, the delay is reported in Japan to cost $2 billion to $3 billion. No one in authority has offered an official number. The IOC has said it will chip in about $650 million toward the delay but has given few specifics.

A University of Oxford study says these are the most expensive Summer Olympics on record.

Organizers recently announced they found simplification savings of about $280 million — about 2% of the official outlays. Tokyo said the Olympics would cost $7.3 billion when it was awarded the games in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 2013.

Q: What's the COVID-19 situation in Japan?

A: Better than most places, but infection cases are rising. About 2,000 people are reported to have died from COVID-19 in Japan, in a population about 125 million. New cases in Tokyo on Thursday topped 500 for the first time. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga says the country is on “maximum alert.” This surge is not likely to convince an already skeptical population that the Olympics are a safe and sensible idea.

Q: I have read these are the best prepared Olympics in history. It his true?

A: Bach has repeatedly said this, and he has lauded organizers for their ability to quickly adapt during the pandemic. Few countries could handle the postponement as well as Japan has.

It's ironic, therefore, that Tokyo has also been the subject of a probe by French investigators relating to alleged bribery during the bidding for these games. Bach was asked this week in Tokyo about reported payments of $8 million made by the Tokyo bid committee to Haruyuki Takahashi.

Takahashi is a former executive of the Japanese marketing company Dentsu Inc., the marketing agent for Tokyo 2020. He is reported to have lobbied IOC members for votes.

“With regard to Mr. Takahashi, we received confirmation that there was no infringement of the IOC rules,” Bach said this week when asked.

Former Japanese Olympic Committee President Tsunekazu Takeda was forced to resign last year after acknowledging he signed off on a $2 million payment to a Singapore-based consulting company for bid work. He denied any wrongdoing.

© Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

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Everything about this Olympics stinks.

15 ( +16 / -1 )

Again and again I have offered JT real insight and supported by facts, real numbers on the postponement but you keep preferring to repeat baseless and unfounded numbers.

some other parts are very correct and in some sports athletes will not be able to qualify through test events and global rankings will be the qualifying norm.

I find it morally and ethically unacceptable to give athletes and staff precedence for vaccination just to hold 1 event of 16 days. I find it stupid to hold on to the Olympic village, while that will certainly cause infections and the opening and closing ceremonies are only held because they present the longest time period for the Us tv stations to run their advertisements as they have high tv ratings.

but I am just a real expert with 30 years experience.

15 ( +16 / -1 )

Europe is experiencing record numbers of covid-19 cases. The USA is experiencing record numbers of covid-19. WHO predicts an exponential increase in the number of covid-19 cases over the next six months, which will wreak havoc on healthcare systems in Europe. Six months, that would be the middle of April 2021.

The Olympics require an inordinate amount of preparation, alongside travel by foreigners from lands where covid-19 is completely out-of-hand and undermining health systems and economies. Drafting all the necessary elements to hold The Games is impossible for the next six months and probably longer.

Japan has invested 25 billion dollars and apparently those in charge are not only foolish fiscally, but are willing to risk the health and welfare of approximately 127 million citizens of Japan.

Bach is beyond irresponsible. Prime minister Suga and governor Koike are delusional, if not quite mad, in their intent to bring disaster to the citizenry by holding The Games no matter the cost.

There is no possible way to recoup the current investment which is over three times the original estimate. It was a foolish gambit from the outset. Now, it borders on bad craziness and lunacy. However, the individuals within the ruling body guiding the games seem intent on compounding the foolishness which will result in creating a colossal disaster.

13 ( +14 / -1 )

There simply is no turning back, nor should we, in my humble opinion. Having been involved in high level sports events in Japan for over 15 years I can safely say, NO ONE organizes sports events as good as the Japanese. If they are to start at 9am, all athletes are lined up calmly waiting outside the door at 8:59 , the music comes on at 9am on the dot, out they walk. It really is something to behold. Gets me every time.

If anyone can pull this off, they can. With the current surges and third wave I can understand the resignation many readers feel, as well as the allegations of corruption etc, but with a vaccine just around the corner and a full 8 months to go it is far from the realm of possibility that it can actually be done. The world will get to be be once again inspired by the games, the resilience of the human spirit, something sorely needed after the chaos and tragedies of an absolutely hellish 2020.

In the true Olympian spirit, the celebration of our shared human potential, let the games go on! Japan will make it happen and it will be a spectacular and emotional experience for anyone that hasn’t given into cynicism and defeatism just yet.

Just imagine the alternative feeling of,

it’s cancelled....

-13 ( +1 / -14 )

If anyone can pull this off, they can.

The trouble is, "this" involves factors beyond the purview of a single government or country.

12 ( +12 / -0 )

Bach wants push people for unsafe vaccination in order to take part in Olympic even though it wouldn't be compulsory in their home country.

PRs and Spouses of Japanese get ready to be allowed to re-entry with certificate of vaccination instead of PCR? Bach has triggered the idea. Japanese nationals won't need of course because it's not going to be compulsory. Residents won't need either as long as you stay in here.


0 ( +0 / -0 )

Let the games begin in the real Olympian spirit, the celebration of our common human potential! Japan will make it happen, and for someone who has not only entered into cynicism and defeatism, it will be a beautiful and emotional experience.Let the games begin in the real Olympian spirit, the celebration of our common human potential! Japan will make it happen, and for someone who has not only entered into cynicism and defeatism, it will be a beautiful and emotional experience.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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