Olympics organisers are still only starting to come to terms with the massive task of rebuilding the Tokyo Games over the next 16 months from the debris of postponement.
Over the past fortnight the International Olympic Committee and Japanese government moved at speed, after months of stonewalling, to agree first a postponement of the Games and then pick virtually the same July/August time slot next year.
That presented both IOC and Tokyo 2020 with what Olympic sports director Christophe Dubi described to a media briefing as a task which was not only “complicated” but “unprecedented”.
The Games have been cancelled three times in the past because of war but never postponed.
Dubi said: “Tokyo 2020 and the Japanese authorities [had] a machine ready to deliver. Everybody was ready to go – and then we break.”
That meant a total rethink in terms of the Olympic village, 41 core venues, convention centres, 40,000-plus hotel rooms, 2,000 buses and thousands of contracts for goods and services.
He added: “Work has already started with the Here We Go taskforce to mobilise all our resources and partners. Everyone is on deck at present and working day in and day out with Tokyo to assist in this very complicated jigsaw puzzle.”
Recalibrating in the face of worldwide coronavirus restrictions has exacerbated the most massive organisational challenge the IOC and one of its host cities have ever shared.
Then come the sporting complications. Postponement left thousands of competitors uncertain about their qualification status while many sports fear survival prospects without the expected post-Olympic profits share.
Reassurance was offered by Kit McConnell, in charge of national Olympic committee relations. He said: “All of the qualifications achieved by an NOC or athlete remain in place.”
McConnell added: “Any athlete who goes to the Games needs to be individually selected but across 33 sports and 11,000 athletes about 57pc have already gained qualification on the field of play.”
He also expected to reach agreement with FIFA “in the next couple of weeks” on raising the age limit of men footballers from 23 to 24 to take account of the postponement.
Dubi, McConnell, Olympic Solidarity director James Macleod and TV and marketing services head Timo Lumme had no option but to fend off a range of other issues by declaring that it was too soon to provide answers while they were still working through all the ramifications of rescheduling.
On the plus side, the IOC expects the Beijing Winter Games early in 2022 to benefit from the Tokyo ‘bounce’ six months earlier.
Dubi said: “We see the timing [of the two Games] as a formidable opportunity. Tokyo will generate an immense, stunning follow-up [which] we truly believe will be a great build-up to the Beijing Games.
“We are discussing with the organising committee how to maximise this opportunity of, for once, having two editions of the Games which follow quite closely. So we are looking at the bright side of things when it comes to having back-to-back Olympic Games.”
Source: Keir Radndedge| AIPS Football Commission Chairman