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Could Tokyo 2020 delay due to Coronavirus?

From Plan B to stakeholder interests: will Olympic Games take place regularly?

Could Tokyo 2020 delay due to Coronavirus? From Plan B to stakeholder interests: will Olympic Games take place regularly?

COVID-19 - better known as Coronavirus - is a symptom of fear, tension, concern and in the last few hours the dynamics in Italy are proof of this. Exactly halfway between psychosis and survival instinct, there are still many doubts about the real threat of coronavirus. After the postponement of most Italian sporting events, another question arises: how will the Tokyo Olympic Games take place, which will start exactly in four months?

To date, the answers of the most important bodies that revolve around the Olympics are four: concreteness, faith, determination and hope. They might seem very distant as concepts and probably are. The causes of these reactions so different from each other are many. The IOC doesn't want to respond to this epidemic by creating panic, but wants to convey precisely those four concepts. For example, on February 17, on the occasion of the launch of a promotional video that revealed the official claim of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games: United by Emotion. Emotions, however, in this moment realistically closer to fear than anything else.


The position of the IOC

As said, the Organizing Committee is determined and does not create alarmism around an event that has always brought together a huge number of people. Against this uncontrolled wave of panic, the IOC note arrives which tries to clarify the many rumors that speak of canceled Olympic Games, of any delays and compromises that safeguard more the economic and commercial agreements than the security measures to face the emergency:

Preparations for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics continue as planned. Countermeasures against infectious diseases are an important part of Tokyo 2020's plans to host safe and secure Olympic Games. Tokyo 2020 will continue to work with all relevant organizations that carefully monitor the incidence of infectious diseases and review the countermeasures that may be needed with all relevant organizations. In addition, the IOC is in contact with the World Health Organization and its medical experts. We are confident that the competent authorities, particularly in Japan and China, will take all necessary measures to deal with the situation.

Japan has the second highest rate of infections after China, with 695 positive people - largely concentrated on the Diamond Princess docked in the city of Yokohama - and the numbers so far do not seem to be falling. A message almost more of faith than that of Yoshiro Mori, CEO of Tokyo 2020, who in the last hours said "I pray to God every day for the coronavirus to disappear".

A plan B, they say from the Land of the Rising Sun, is not even taken into consideration. The words of John Coates, president of the IOC Coordination Committee, confirm this:

The advice we receive externally from the WHO is that there is no reason for emergency plans or cancellation of games.

The "devil" virus, as Chinese President Xi Jinping called it, scares but doesn't scare, worries but doesn't worry. The IOC, through the words of Mori himself who added "We are not considering canceling or postponing the Games, let me clarify it", reveals confidence and is in line with the projections that COVID-19 will vanish during the hottest and wettest summer months, as SARS did in 2003. The biggest concern remains that related to the path of the Olympic torch which will be lit on March 12 in Olympia (Greece) and on March 20 will begin its journey to Japan , going around the 47 prefectures of the country for 121 days, in conjunction with the hanami, the cherry blossom.

Economic impact of the threat

Coronavirus could also be a real problem for the entire Olympic Games business. If Daniel Zhang, CEO of Alibaba, has also admitted that there is a possibility that the global economy may be derailed, then the danger is tangible.

The impact on the world economy of the virus is estimated by Capital Economics on a figure that exceeds 280 billion dollars in the first three months of 2020 alone. The blockade of "made in China" affairs worries a huge number of companies - about 5 million - and of any range: from Hyundai which closed the huge factory in Ulsan due to the shortage of parts to Apple - which has already warned investors that it will not be able to achieve the quarterly turnover targets for "supply shortages of iPhone ”- all the way to airlines like Cathay Pacific, which reduced its operations by 40%, asking 27.000 employees to take unpaid leave to help the company stay afloat.

One of the sectors most involved in this wave of concern that invests and involves the Olympic Games is that of tourism. Japan welcomed 9.6 million visitors from China in 2019 alone, representing one third of foreign tourist spending. After the outbreak began, however, that number tends to be very close to zero. If the virus does not stop its rapid expansion, investments made to improve the infrastructure and transport sector could be compromised. For the first, around 80.000 hotel rooms have been estimated - by CBRE Hotels - which will be built to host fans who will arrive in Japan for the Olympics; for the second, however, several billion dollars have already been spent to improve the accommodation capacity of airports across the country.

The first damage to the Olympics economy is already visible today. The games cost four months from the start, the beauty of 25 billion dollars, or four times the original estimate.


Health first or investment first?

Another round, another question that does not find an answer so simple. The possible cancellation of the Olympic Games or a possible switch in a different formula would lead to a catastrophe in economic terms for different stakeholder, including also the television broadcasters.

That of the switch in the most "European" form, that is, with both the Games divided between different countries, is a solution that Simon Chadwick, professor of the sports industry of the Business School of Emlyon, considers plausible to stem the problem of COVID-19. At the same time, during an interview with TIME, Chadwick claims that the interests of an entire ecosystem are very close to those of the most important and most active investors.

The Japanese government is certainly putting pressure on the IOC in an attempt to protect the multitude of investments.

The commercial hosts involved, therefore, would have already lined up against the option to move away from Japan. The investments Chadwick referred to are of significant proportions. For example, NBC spent 1.4 billion dollars on the broadcasting rights for Tokyo 2020 and its overturning would mean a substantial change of plans just 150 days from the start of one of the most anticipated sporting events.

The vision shared by professionals, however, goes in an unequivocal and logically correct direction. The hypothetical expansion of the virus must obviously raise the level of attention, but at the same time it cannot represent a problem to be asked immediately. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government is also working in this direction.

We cannot provide a definitive answer to a hypothetical situation.


Are European 2020 also at risk?

The itinerant option has been an integral part of European sporting events for years. This formula was also chosen for the 2020 European football championship. On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the tournament, the final round will not take place in a single nation or two, but in 12 distinct European cities. Copenhagen, Bucharest, Amsterdam, Dublin, Bilbao, Budapest, Glasgow, Baku, Rome, Munich, St. Petersburg and London.

However, Europe too must face the coronavirus issue. Italy, which will host the inaugural match of the tournament, is today the third country in the world for infections (219) after China and South Korea. Even in this case, however, there is no plan B. CONI President Giovanni Malagò reiterated this version.

I don't know there is a contraindication, but I don't decide. Euro 2020 depends on UEFA.

The competent body has not yet exposed itself and has not yet issued any communication on the matter. While the rest of Europe seems to be keeping the spread of the virus at bay, Italy remains the only truly worrying case.

UEFA will have to deal with this situation, broadening its vision to include the cups already underway. The Champions League and the Europa League, two competitions that involve large movements of fans and athletes, have been the focus of attention in the last few hours. Ludogorets, for example, tries to protect itself in view of the trip to Milan against Inter. Through an official note published on the Facebook profile, the Bulgarian company asked for clarifications on the situation both for UEFA and for Inter. The worry of traveling and doing it in a place where there is a virus frightens and worries. The possibility of playing behind closed doors to avoid problems is becoming increasingly popular.