The 2020 Summer Olympic Games were already likely among the single largest casualties of the coronavirus outbreak, but there potentially is even more dire news for the Tokyo event. Should the current pandemic threats persist into next summer, the president of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee, Yoshiro Mori, told Nikkan Sports a delay to 2022 would not happen and the games would be outright canceled.
Mori noted the Olympic Games have been canceled before during wartime and the world is “fighting against an invisible enemy now.” The Olympics were canceled three times for World War I and World War II.
“This is a gamble by the human race,” Mori said. “If we can hold the Olympics after the world beats the virus, the games will have many times more value than in the past.” The postponement has already added an additional $2.7 billion to the $12.6 billion budget, making it the second-most expensive games in history.
The ultimate economic impact to Japan is still to be determined, according to CNBC. The Japan Times reported canceling the games would result in “economic damage” of $42.1 billion. There’s also the $4.8 billion NBC paid the IOC for the Olympic rights through 2020 and the more than $1 billion in ads sold by NBC.
The outlook for athletes is equally grim. Following the postponement, the New York Times reported the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee would have to wait another year for the $200 million its athletes rely on for living and training stipends. That’s not counting all the endorsements that have been upended.
Japan is currently under a month-long state of emergency due to a rapid increase in COVID-19 cases, and according to NBC Sports, a Japanese professor of infectious diseases is “pessimistic” the games could be held in 15 months.
Meanwhile, other experts have also said both the summer Olympics and the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics could be at the mercy of a vaccine for the coronavirus, which is at least a year away.