A member of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee’s executive board said Wednesday he will raise the topic of a possible delay of this summer’s games due to the coronavirus outbreak during a board meeting later this month.
“We need to deal accordingly with (the crisis) based on reality. Time is running out,” Haruyuki Takahashi, a former senior managing director at Japan’s largest advertising agency, Dentsu Inc., told Kyodo News over the phone.
The organizing committee quickly tried to shoot down what Takahashi described as a personal opinion, saying that postponing the Olympics, due to start July 24, has not been discussed and the games will go ahead as scheduled.
“Our basic stance is to host a secure and safe Olympics. At the moment, we are not at all considering making changes in the direction or the schedule of the games,” Yoshiro Mori, president of the committee, told reporters in Tokyo.
Mori said he urged Takahashi to be more careful with what he says and he apologized for “causing trouble.”
Tristan Lavier, a senior communications official with the Tokyo organizing committee, took issue with the timing of the Kyodo report and earlier interview with Takahashi.
“No! Hey @kyodo_english .@kyodo_official, why don’t you contextualise your story, mention that your interview took place this morning, and that Prez Mori spoke to the press since dismissing everything?” Lavier wrote on Twitter.
On Tuesday, The Wall Street Journal reported that Takahashi said it would be more realistic to postpone the Olympics by one or two years rather than cancel the games because of the outbreak.
“I don’t think the games could be canceled, it’d be a delay. The International Olympic Committee would be in trouble if there’s a cancellation. American TV rights alone provide them with a huge amount,” Takahashi told the WSJ.
Following Takahashi’s comments, the organizing committee also released an official comment, saying, “We are not considering postponing the games. Preparations for the tournament will proceed as planned.”
Takahashi told Kyodo News “there would be no cancellation” given the financial fallout from doing so or holding the games without spectators and issuing ticket refunds would be too great to consider, as was also reported in the WSJ.
He suggested a two-year delay would be easier for organizers to arrange since next year’s sports schedule in the United States and Europe is largely fixed, and American broadcasters have already paid huge fees for broadcast rights to the Tokyo Games at a time that does not conflict with other major sports events.
The WSJ estimates that about 73 percent of the IOC’s revenue comes from selling broadcasting rights, according to the governing body’s latest financial statement.