Limpag: Trouble in Tokyo

Mike T. Limpag

IN EARLY March, just as the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Covid-19 a pandemic, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was still stalling on making an announcement on the postponement on the Tokyo Olympics, preferring instead to wait until late May. However, events in the succeeding weeks after the WHO declaration and with athletes and some nations vowing not to join the games should it push through, the IOC finally said it will move the games to a year later in 2021.

That seems doable because by early April, it seemed we could go over the huge bump that is Covid-19.

However, in the weeks that followed things looked bleak and with global economies suffering a massive hit, there were calls to scrap the Olympic Games altogether. My initial reaction was that it seemed too drastic and too soon a move. Why not another postponement or move it another year?

But now, it seems, there’s a real danger that there won’t be a Tokyo Olympics as it is now one of the talking points in the race for the governorship in Tokyo, with the leading candidates supporting its scrapping. Basically, they see no value in spending billions more to hold the games when it could be spent more prudently in helping its economy.

Then of course, there’s that issue of safety. The Olympics normally has 10,000 athletes and with thousands more of journalists, support staff and the families of the Olympians. Then of course there are the millions of fans who are expected to watch the games.

Should it push through without a vaccine globally available, it wouldn’t make sense having fans in the games as the host country is basically opening itself up for another infection.

When it made its successful bid in 2013, Tokyo projected a cost of US$7.3 billion in hosting the games. However, like all Olympic hosts, the estimate fell short and a year before the games was set to be staged, the official cost rose to $12.6 billion. I say official because the Associated Press reported that an audit said the cost was at least twice the amount.

At least $25.2 billion. That’s staggering. To put it in perspective, that’s P1.2 trillion, more than 25 percent of our national budget for 2020 which is at P4.1 trillion. And that ballooning cost for Tokyo was before Covid-19. The postponement of the games is expected to cost the host another $2.7 billion.

Hence, the talk of postponing the games altogether.

And I fear, that’s going to be the most logical move altogether for Tokyo.