The Summer Olympics now aren’t scheduled to begin for 16 months, but Tokyo officials are already hinting that the new 2021 date could be in doubt. Japan has established emergency measures to contain the coronavirus after apparently containing the pandemic’s spread, and that new declaration throws doubt into even the postponed Olympic date.
“I don’t think anyone would be able to say if it is going to be possible to get it under control by next July or not,” Tokyo organizing committee CEO Toshiro Muto said via interpreter at a news conference, as reported by the AP. ”We’re certainly are not in a position to give you a clear answer.”
The Olympics are now scheduled to begin July 23, 2021. However, that would be contingent on the development of a vaccine and/or the deployment of testing on a massive scale, both of which appear many months in the future. Bringing together tens of thousands of people from all over the world into one location and then sending them back into the world would seem to be, without substantial mitigating efforts, an invitation for the virus to spread unchecked once again.
The alternatives for 2021 aren’t clear, and Muto emphasized that it’s too early to even consider such options. “Rather than think about alternatives plans, we should put in all of our effort,” he said. “Mankind should bring together all of its technology and wisdom to work hard so they can development treatments, medicines and vaccines.”
Additional costs for the rescheduling of the Games have been estimated at anywhere from $2 billion to $6 billion. Muto declined to put a number on the added costs, and did not indicate who would be paying them. He did note that Tokyo 2020 took out a wide variety of insurance policies, but it’s unclear if the policies would cover a pandemic-related postponement. (Wimbledon’s insurance policy will pay more than $140 million after the tournament’s COVID-related cancellation.)
The Olympic flame was recently removed from display, but Muto would not disclose immediate plans for it. “After the Olympic torch relay was canceled, the Olympic flame was put under the management of Tokyo 2020,” he said. “Obviously in the future there is a possibility it might be put on display somewhere. However, for now it is under the management of Tokyo 2020 and I’m not going to make any further comment on the issue.”
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee or contact him with tips and story ideas at email@example.com.
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