The 2020 Tokyo Olympics will take place from July 23 to August 8, 2021, despite having been pre-set by the International Olympic Committee for dates ranging from July 24 to August 9 of the year 2020.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, for the first time in the history of the modern Olympics, the games have been postponed and not completely cancelled, as happened to the 1916 editions due to the outbreak of World War I, and the 1940 and 1944 editions due to World War II.
In fact, their postponement is just one of the many peculiarities that accompany this year’s Olympic Games. Another example is to carry out most of the competitions behind closed doors and, according to the latest rumors, even the stadiums outside the center of Tokyo, which could have hosted audiences by following the distancing measures and limited capacity, will be closed. The decision to hold the Olympics without an audience in attendance but only on television has no historical precedent and adds to the very long list of changes that our normality has undergone following the spread of the virus.
The athletes will compete in silent stadiums, without the support of the public, and in fact will lose the spirit of aggregation that characterizes this sporting event since its inception. The decision on the part of the Japanese government to armor the city of Tokyo for the duration of the Olympics was certainly not taken lightly, but is necessary for the containment of contagion cases in Japan that seem to have soared, and also given the Japanese vaccination situation, as only a small part of the population has completed the vaccination.
While from a health perspective, minimizing access to Olympic events will hopefully have positive effects, the same cannot be said from an economic perspective. Many of the sponsors and local companies have decided to withdraw or significantly reduce promotional events related to the 2020 Olympics; in addition, the missing revenues from ticket sales create a large economic gap - according to the Financial Times it is about 800 million dollars - that the Japanese government and institutions will have to fill.
Fortunately, about 75% of the expenses will be covered by payments for the rights to broadcast the competition on both television and live streaming. In addition, digitization comes to the rescue with a new official Olympics app that will allow the viewer to stay up-to-date on events, competitions and results, and be able to interact with other viewers without moving from home. This not only contributes to revenues, but also represents an attempt to bring people closer to this world event. Even Japanese public opinion is sharply divided regarding the holding of the 2020 Olympics: one part of the population understands that the permanent cancellation of the sporting event would cause greater economic damage to the Japanese government, while the other part of the population - and perhaps the largest - at this time sees the 2020 Olympics as a major threat to the health of the Japanese people.
Taking sides on the issue is certainly not easy, especially with the increasing infections, also due to the spread of the new Delta variant, and with the discovery of recent positive cases of Covid-19 within the athletes’ villages. What is certain, however, is that the 2020 Tokyo Olympics - the only ones to be held in an odd year (2021), at the center of much controversy and held in silent stadiums - will remain in history.