The COVID-19 pandemic arrived as an unstoppable avalanche across the planet and affected sectors that previously seemed untouchable, such as the Olympic Games, for all its global symbolic weight. The decision to postpone the competition had enormous financial costs. Japan, the host country, is betting strongly on preventive measures to make it possible to have the event in 2021 as a symbol of hope.
The forced postponement led to organization costs to increase by around 22%, an additional 2300 million euros. According to the organization, the extra costs associated with counter Covid-19 measures will be supported by local authorities and the Japanese government.
The postponement caused several constraints, mainly in logistics and finance, forcing the organisation to extend contracts, renegotiate agreements with sponsors, and refund about 800 thousand tickets that were already sold.
In the bidding phase, Tokyo 2020 stood out for its low cost: an entire Olympic Games for around 6200 million euros. The slippages started well before the pandemic. The current price tag is more than double what was initially forecast, exceeding 12.6 billion euros according to end of 2020 math forecasts.
The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games were the first in history to be postponed. The 1916, 1940, and 1944 editions were cancelled because of the ongoing global conflicts of the time.
In 2021, the responsible parties have agreed to hold the Games between July 23 and August 8. Only a considerable aggravation of the health crisis can jeopardize this objective and lead to a new postponement. At this stage, and with the advent of the vaccine, this is not a likely scenario.
The authorities' positive reinforcement
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) president, Thomas Bach, was clear in his statement: "We are prepared for safe Games, whatever the conditions the world may be facing next summer. We are working hard, with our partners and friends, to guarantee the Games in this new world with the coronavirus". The Japanese Prime Minister stressed that he was equally convinced that the Games are going forward, saying that the Tokyo Games "will be proof that humanity has overcome the virus".
It is yet unknown the extent of the security measures to be adopted. What we know for now is that the approximately 11000 athletes participating in the Olympic Games will be tested for Covid-19 on arrival at the Olympic village and before and after the events. Every athlete will end up being tested every four or five days during the competition.
There is also the question of the audience, a matter that is not yet completely closed. In practice, the reduced number of sports fan attending wll have to take a test 72 hours before travelling to Japan and once again upon arrival in the country.
The challenge to athletes' fitness
Throughout 2020, sports' competitions of all sorts were affected, whether for professionals or amateurs, adults or children. It was a very difficult year for all sportsmen and women. Therefore, there are doubts regarding athletes' physical form upon the start of the competition, given that the pandemic completely changed professional athletes' routines. There was almost no competition in many sports, and even training was severely limited.
The Olympic Games next summer will feature five new sports: baseball, karate, rock climbing, skateboarding and surfing. The choices are justified by the modalities' popularity and tradition in Japan (mainly the first two) and the need to attract a young audience.
In surfing, where Portugal stands out, the country will be represented by Frederico Morais, who has already secured his place. Portugal has already confirmed the participation of 35 additional athletes. João Vieira (50 km march), at 43, will become the second Portuguese athlete with the most presences in Games (six), only behind sailor João Rodrigues (seven presences).
The human spirit prevails
The Olympic torch lighting ceremony will certainly be one of the most anticipated and exciting moments the world has ever seen. This coming July, everyone will be able to witness this long-awaited, tremendous symbolic moment: sports will assert itself as a great form of unity and resistance over the global threat of the coronavirus, a symbol of the resilience of the human spirit.