The Olympics show must go on, says a bunch of old people

The men in charge of making decisions about the Tokyo Olympics have probably decided that they’ve let rumors about the Tokyo Olympics’ fate simmer in despair for a little too long, and have started to speak in high profile strides to the media.

As Alastair Gale reports for the Wall Street Journal:

If the Olympics can’t go ahead this summer in Tokyo because of the coronavirus epidemic, the most realistic option would be to delay the event by one or two years, a member of the executive board for the Japanese organizing committee said.

… Mr. [Haruyuki] Takahashi, a former senior managing director at Japanese advertising giant Dentsu Inc., said the financial damage from canceling the Games or holding them without spectators would be too great. A delay shorter than a year, meanwhile, would be difficult because the Games would then likely be held at the same time as other major professional sports, such as baseball and football in the U.S., and soccer in Europe, he said.

Why am I not surprised that “Dentsu” and “financial damage from canceling the Games” are in the same paragraph?

As the communist (not in Xi Jinping’s stance) newspaper Choshu Shimbun reported last January on Dentsu’s Olympic tentacles from the very beginning of the Olympic bid:


The reason why the Olympic bid activities have become so corrupted with money is because the Olympics itself has become a gigantic commercial event with television broadcasting rights and emblem licensing rights that bring in huge sums of money. Indeed, the Tokyo Olympics will be the biggest in the history of the Summer Olympics, and has amassed over 400 billion yen from 50 corporate sponsors. The firm that manages it all while taking a handsome profit margin and undertaking to publicize the Olympics all by itself is Dentsu.

Translation Notes
1. The previous paragraphs of this article discuss a corruption allegation first revealed by The Guardian in 2016.
2. For details on Dentsu’s involvement with amassing an unprecedented pool of sponsorship money, check out this Financial Times report from August 2019.

Is the coronavirus even a case of force majeure for the Olympics? As Matthew Futterman, Tariq Panja and Andrew Keh wrote for the New York Times last week:

It remains unclear how any decision about the Olympics would unfold if officials in Tokyo conclude they have to alter plans for the Games. Seiko Hashimoto, Japan’s Olympic minister, said this week that Japan’s position was that as long as Tokyo held the Games in 2020, the I.O.C. could not cancel them.

The 80-page contract the Japan Olympic Committee and the City of Tokyo signed with the I.O.C. in 2013 obligates the local organizers to set up the competitions, ticket sales, fan services and countless other amenities — a deal that would seemingly allow the I.O.C. to push back against any plan to hold the Games without spectators.

But the I.O.C.’s host city contract also gives the organization broad rights to cancel the Olympics in the event of war or other forms of civil unrest, or if it believes, in the contract’s words, that “the safety of participants in the Games would be seriously threatened or jeopardized for any reason whatsoever.”

At least the contract says something about the risk to the Olympic athletes. Talking to the Wall Street Journal shouldn’t mean that the first thing to come to mind is “financial damage” and “broadcasting rights”. That would only validate what folks against the Olympics have said all along.