'Agonizing' move to postpone Olympics but Japanese athletes positive
TOKYO – The swift move to postpone the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to 2021 surprised many Japanese, while sponsors and athletes breathed a sigh of relief with the Games not being cancelled for now.
The International Olympic Committee's decision to postpone this summer's Games "comes faster than expected," Japanese Olympic Committee president Yasuhiro Yamashita told reporters.
While the novel coronavirus spread worldwide rapidly, the IOC and hosts Japan initially insisted the 2020 Games would go on from July 24 to August 9 with the Paralympic Games August 25 to September 6.
But as some countries pulled out and calls for postponement grew, things escalated quickly and despite a four-week deadline being announced Sunday, delay was confirmed Tuesday.
"I'm sure athletes have a variety of thoughts. But it was an agonizing decision, placing top priority on the safety of athletes. So, please understand," said Yamashita, a 1984 judo gold medallist.
"I know it will be very difficult to shift emotional gears. But I would like athletes to prepare for the Games in 2021 in a proactive manner," he added.
The postponement was "extremely regrettable," Akio Mimura, who chairs chairman of the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said in a statement. "From now on, we need to overcome many difficulties caused by the postponement."
Hiroaki Nakanishi, chairman of the Japan Business Federation, the country's most influential business lobby, told a news conference that it was "too early to tell" the economic impact of the postponement.
But some expressed concerns about additional costs for the already costly Tokyo Olympics.
"Costs for the Games have been far greater than the original estimate. Then the postponement will cost the country further," Dentist Nobuhiko Okano was quoted by Kyodo News as saying.
"The Olympics themselves are exciting. But I wonder whether we should still hold them by even going that far," he said.
Officials estimated Japan could end up spending more than 3 trillion yen (27 billion dollars), far larger than the 734 billion yen originally estimated when Tokyo was bidding for the 2020 Games in 2013, calling for a "compact Olympics."
A postponement could cost the country another 640.8 billion yen, Kansai University economics professor emeritus Katsuhiro Miyamoto estimated in a statement.
The cancellation of the Games altogether would sap 7.8 trillion yen from Japan's gross domestic product, SMBC Nikko Securities chief economist Junichi Makino told the Nikkei Business Daily.
Meanwhile, many Japanese athletes affected by the postponement support the move.
Japanese football midfielder Ritsu Doan, who currently plays for PSV Eindhoven in the Netherlands, welcomed the decision.
"While I myself have been staying at home these two weeks with situations here in Europe becoming more and more serious in recent days, it was very hard to do so, not knowing whether or not the Olympics would be held as scheduled," Doan said on his Instagram account.
"Now I accept the decision positively as I can set a new one-year goal," he said.
Sport climbing hopeful Tomoa Narasaki was "shocked" to hear about the postponement, he said on his Instagram account. However, "for us athletes, Olympics are a big goal and a big dream. What I'm aiming for will not change. I will continue to do what I can," Narasaki said.
"Whenever the Games are held, I'm always ready to compete," Naohisa Takato, a 2016 Olympic bronze medalist in judo, wrote on Twitter. "At first, we must overcome the coronavirus before the Olympics. I wash hands thoroughly."
However, the one-year postponement troubled some athletes like Hiromi Miyake, who took silver in women's weightlifting at the 2012 London Olympics and bronze in Rio four years later.
"One year is a bit long," Miyake said.
"I feel the weightiness of things given my age and physical strength," the 34-year-old said. "I would have already given it up if they had decided to postpone the Games by two years.
"I would like to consult my father who is also my coach. I love weightlifting and I don't want to leave things unfinished. So, please let me readjust myself."dpa