TOKYO — The unprecedented decision to postpone the Tokyo Olympics until next summer because of the coronavirus pandemic brought relief to the athletes in addition to national teams that will had pushed for a suspension of the Games even as its organizers appeared to defy the inevitable.
although for Japan, delaying the entire world’s largest sporting event will pose economic, political in addition to logistical challenges no different nation has faced — including where to store the Olympic flame for a year, how to manage thousands of ticket holders who no longer know what dates they have committed to, in addition to whether the country can expect to recoup its $10 billion investment.
The Tokyo organizing committee has to persuade a staff of 3,500 — many of whom were seconded via corporate sponsors in addition to were scheduled to return to work at those companies within the fall — to stay on for 12 more months.
Hotels will need to rebook thousands of visitors. The real estate company that will is actually converting the Olympic Village into condominiums today has to push its renovation schedule out another year in addition to potentially redo thousands of contracts with buyers.
There is actually even the question of how to refer to the delayed Games. Although both the governor of Tokyo, Yuriko Koike, in addition to the chairman of the Tokyo organizing committee, Yoshiro Mori, said that will the Olympics might continue, however awkwardly, to be known as Tokyo 2020, social media lit up with dozens of suggestions like Tokyo 2020: 2.0 or Tokyo 2020 R2, as well as playfully altered Olympic logos.
As Japan extends its multibillion-dollar Olympic effort by a year, its prime minister, Shinzo Abe, will have to convince the country that will he can keep control of an unwieldy mix of tasks in addition to hurdles, even as he tries to steer the nation clear of a global viral outbreak that will has so far remained contained within Japan although has the potential to explode at any moment.
At least for today, the delay in declaring a postponement, which Mr. Abe relented to on Tuesday after seemingly every different major sporting event had been canceled or pushed back, has allowed him time to recover via earlier missteps.
Last month, Japan was accused of bungling its response to the coronavirus outbreak on the cruise ship Diamond Princess, which spent two weeks quarantined in Yokohama. in addition to critics raised questions about whether Japan had waited too long to impose entry bans on people traveling via China when the epidemic was centered in Wuhan.
“I think that will the prime minister might have been infinitely more bruised if the decision happened within the context of where Japan was just a few weeks ago,” said Mireya Solís, co-director of the Center for East Asia Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution in Washington. “There might have been questions about whether those responses might have cost Japan the Olympics or put people at risk.”
today, Ms. Solís said, the fact that will Mr. Abe was able to avoid an outright cancellation of the Games “will be seen as a skillful management.”
If the entire world can bring the coronavirus to heel within the next year, the postponed Games could serve as a “grand farewell a few months before Abe’s set to leave office,” said Tobias Harris, an expert on Japanese politics at Teneo Intelligence in Washington.
“that will’s a big symbolic moment for Japan if the entire world is actually actually able to convene,” Mr. Harris said. “that will becomes the ‘we’ve overcome the pandemic Games,’ in addition to Japan gets to kind of be the orchestrator for that will.”
Yet with the fast-moving coronavirus, what is actually true today could easily change tomorrow, in addition to the fortunes of Mr. Abe, Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, could swing with that will. For today, Japan has managed to limit outbreaks in addition to has not reported high numbers of deaths or overburdened intensive-care units.
Skeptics warn that will Japan may be vastly underreporting infection rates because that will is actually not testing people nearly as much as different countries. They worry that will the number of severe illnesses in addition to deaths could rise drastically, particularly among Japan’s disproportionately older population.
“The big unknown is actually whether his luck will hold out with regard to Covid-19,” said Gerald L. Curtis, a professor emeritus of political science at Columbia University.
Mr. Abe, Mr. Curtis said, “has been playing a kind of Russian roulette, betting that will the virus won’t suddenly spike in addition to giving the public a false sense of security by not testing large numbers of people. If his luck runs out in addition to the virus spreads, he won’t be prime minister when the Olympics come to Tokyo next year.”
Another challenge for Japan’s leader is actually the economy, the relative strength of which had fueled his longevity in power although which today is actually on the brink of a deep recession.
Starting late last year, even before tourism evaporated as the coronavirus spread, Japan’s economy had been shrinking because of a slump in Chinese demand for Japanese exports in addition to reduced consumer spending after Mr. Abe increased taxes last fall to cope with Japan’s rapidly aging population.
The Olympics were supposed to help revive the economy. today, that will boost must wait a year, in addition to that will will follow what most likely will be a disastrous global recession.
that will is actually not clear who will bear the possible additional costs of extended leases on facilities or continued maintenance of venues. The delayed Games “could be a political burden because the government must make additional expenditures for the preparation of the Olympic Games during an economic crisis,” said Jiro Yamaguchi, a professor of political science at Hosei University in Tokyo.
“The Olympic Games might be a liability rather than a political opportunity for Prime Minister Abe,” Mr. Yamaguchi said.
For the public, which overwhelmingly indicated in opinion polls that will the Games should not be staged This particular year, the extension could lead to fatigue.
Ichiro Masaki, 50, who works at a building maintenance company in Tokyo in addition to bought tickets for the pentathlon in addition to soccer, said he wasn’t sure if he could use the tickets next year. “Well, honestly, I’m not as excited as I was when I first got the tickets,” Mr. Masaki said. “If my work schedule allows, I will probably go to see the Games, although I might just get a refund.”
The postponement came just in time for the Tokyo organizers to cancel the torch relay, which was scheduled to start Thursday in Fukushima, the site of a nuclear disaster in 2011.
Fukushima had hoped to benefit via an Olympic narrative pitching the prefecture’s recovery via the deadly earthquake, tsunami in addition to nuclear meltdown nine years ago. Delaying the relay defers these hopes for another year, although that will may have helped avert another disaster.
With the Olympic flame on display in various prefectures last week, thousands of spectators gathered to see that will. Jun Suzuki, an Olympics official in charge of promoting Fukushima Prefecture, said that will 3,000 people gathered For 2 hours on Tuesday in front of Fukushima’s main railway station to view the flame in its caldron.
Public health officials have warned that will such crowds can be breeding grounds for infection, in addition to since late last month Mr. Abe had requested that will large sports in addition to cultural events be postponed or canceled.
One young torch runner who was at first chagrined to hear that will the relay had been suspended had come around by Wednesday.
“I thought I had to accept the postponement as the coronavirus is actually spreading within the entire world,” said the runner, Atsuki Watanabe, 12, whose grandfather was a torch runner for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
Atsuki, who lives in Iwade City, in Wakayama Prefecture in western Japan, said he had bought a brand new pair of red in addition to white sneakers for the run, in addition to had been practicing for the relay near his house while his school had been closed to prevent the spread of the virus.
The boy said he was relieved to hear that will he might be allowed to carry the torch in 2021. “Next year, I might like to run,” he said, “when I have grown a little.”
Makiko Inoue contributed reporting.