What could happen if the Tokyo Olympics are canceled?

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As Japan battles a fourth wave of coronavirus infections and a state of emergency in Tokyo and other prefectures remains in place until the end of the month, health experts, chiefs There is increasing pressure from the corporate world and the Japanese public to cancel the Games.
Last week, the Tokyo Medical Practitioners Association, an organization of about 6,000 physicians in Tokyo, wrote a letter calling for a cancellation, while a petition that garnered 350,000 signatures in nine days in support of a cancellation has been submitted to the organizers.
Also last week, the CEO of Japan’s leading e-commerce company Rakuten said holding the Games amid the pandemic amounted to a ‘suicide mission’ – among the strongest oppositions voiced by a business leader to date. .

Organizers have published a playbook, the final version of which is expected next month, outlining a series of countermeasures that they believe will ensure the Games can run safely and securely, even as thousands of athletes from all over the world descend on Tokyo. .

With the Beijing Winter Olympics less than a year away, officials also said the Games would no longer be postponed and that a cancellation would be the most likely option if it was deemed unsafe to hold the Games. from the start date postponed to July. .

How would a cancellation happen?

In the host city contract which describes the legal agreement between the IOC and Tokyo to host the Games, the IOC is entitled to terminate the contract on the grounds that “the safety of the participants in the Games would be seriously threatened or endangered for for whatever reason. . ”

According to legal expert Jack Anderson, there will likely be increasing pressure on organizers to force an overturn – a “political decision” rather than a strictly legal one.

“It is the safety of these athletes, which is the main concern of the IOC, the safety of the Japanese public, the main concern of the organizing committee and the Japanese political establishment, which is the key,” Anderson said, professor of law. at Melbourne Law School in Australia, reports CNN Sport.

“And it’s no ordinary one-off event. It’s obviously a huge multidisciplinary event in many different stages.”

Demonstrators protest against the Tokyo Olympics on May 17.
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Anderson adds that terminating the contract with the host city would bring down much of the risk and loss with the organizing committee, which is mandated to purchase insurance for the Games.

“That way it’s simple,” he says. “But of course, in other respects it is not easy as it is not simply a contract between the International Olympic Committee and the host organization.

“We have sponsorship contracts, we have broadcasting, we have hospitality, we have a range – a contractual network of responsibilities – that are in place here. This is a huge contractual problem and would have huge ramifications. insurance if he didn’t disappear. forward. “

According to a January Reuters report, insurers face a loss of $ 2-3 billion if the Olympics are canceled, the largest ever claim in the global event cancellation market.
And for organizers, the financial impact of canceling the Games, even with insurance payments, could be significant given that nearly 75% of the IOC’s total funding comes from broadcast rights.

“The International Olympic Committee – while it is now a very wealthy organization – its wealth rests on its main asset, which hosts the Games,” says Anderson.

“Therefore, not to have a Games, and the ripple effect that has for sponsorship, for broadcasting, would be huge. It would be hard to measure that. But I think you could easily say that insurance alone would not cover it. in terms of reputation and economic damage. “

And the athletes?

Arguably, it is the athletes who would miss the canceled Olympics the most.

Speaking to CNN Sport last week, World Athletics President Seb Coe said that 70% of those looking for Olympic participation will only have one chance to compete in what is likely to be l heyday of their sports career.

Canceling the Games, Coe said, would be “shutting out a generation of athletes who have spent more than half of their young lives chasing this unique moment.”

The other problem with athletes is that countries around the world are in different stages of pandemic recovery and have varying access to vaccines, although Coe said he believed “most of the world will be. games”.

Under public pressure to cancel the staging of the Games, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said last week that he “never made (the) Olympics” a priority.

“My priority has been to protect the life and health of the Japanese people. We must first prevent the spread of the virus,” he said.

The Olympics have been canceled three times: in 1916, 1940 and 1944, each time because of the world wars.

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