The Tokyo Olympics; A Bureaucratic Nightmare of Managing A Money Pit Televised to Millions

Photo by Agathe Marty on Unsplash

The Tokyo Olympic Games is finally set to kick off this Friday, July 23rd, after more than a year’s delay due to the coronavirus. Yet, as most of the world is still very aware, the pandemic is still raging on. While countries like the U.S., is nearing a 50% vaccination rate between eligible participants, other countries have been slow to roll out vaccines in their nation. One such country is Japan. The vaccination rate for Japan sits below 10%, and with the Delta variant overwhelmingly dominating newer cases, many Japanese citizens and the international community have been hesitant to embrace the world’s largest sports competition. Still, the Olympics will happen, that is set in stone, but the stands will be empty, no tourists will visit Tokyo, and the athletes will compete with a crowd that will entirely be behind a screen.

This scenario was probably the last thing the Japanese government expected and has thrust them into an unwelcome dilemma. Being awarded the bid to host the Olympics is a huge boon to any country, it can draw in guests from around the world and allows people the luxury to show off their home to hundreds of millions of watchful eyes. That is if a once-a-century pandemic does not bulldoze those expectations. On the list of doomsday scenarios for the Japanese government, a global pandemic might have been a tier below a real-life Godzilla rampage. But it did happen, and the games were delayed for a whole year, running up the already exorbitant bill fronted for the games by an additional 3.4 billion dollars. The Olympics has suffered setback after setback, from the delay to international attendees being barred from attending, to most recently having all attendees, even domestic, not being allowed after Japan declared a state of emergency due to rising coronavirus cases. With no attendees, that means ticket revenue will likely drop to around zero. This is an immense blow to both the Olympic committee and Japan, with the Rio Olympics in 2016 having a revenue of $815 million. Of course, ticket sales are not the only revenue to be made and neither is it the largest. The real money is in broadcast, and with the pandemic shifting things more digitally, this Olympics is aiming to be the most-watched ever.

That is the real reason why the Olympics have not been canceled. Too much time and too much money is at stake to fully abandon the competition. Come Hell or high water the games will take place, and it will just have to be a couple of billion dollars for an empty stadium and the safety of its citizens at stake.

In this New York Times article, they cover just how much money has been put in place to set up the Olympics, and the projections for the monetary gain. Their new stadium, a massive investment of $15.4 billion was never going to recoup all of that, it was more meant as a demonstration and highlight of Japan’s glory. It’s all branding and having that brand turn toxic is the worst-case scenario. Billions of dollars are on the line, and the cancellation of the games would have brought irreparable damage to the integrity of the government and Olympic committee as well as forever tarnish the Japan Olympics as an abject failure.

The prime minister of Japan, Yoshihide Suga, probably expected a small boost in an approval rating that has steadily tanked due to mismanagement of the pandemic, sitting at a very low 33%. With an election looming in September, that low of an approval rating does not spell fortunate tides ahead. Especially with recent polls of the Japanese citizens overwhelmingly supporting having the Olympics be canceled. 83% of the population either want to have the games further delayed or canceled altogether, and protests have been interspersed during the months, as people are afraid of the safety concerns as cases spread and state of emergencies are declared across Japan. Japan has been heavily criticized for their incredibly slow rollout of vaccines, just after their praise for holding the pandemic at bay before vaccines with sweeping lockdown procedures.

Japan is expecting 10,000 total participants, including coaches and staff. These people will be traveling from around the world to a location in a state of emergency. With the coming of the Delta variant, this is a recipe for disaster. Remember, the games have not even started, and the risks already seem to outweigh the benefits. Other than on the monetary front, which might even be a looming question. Already, cases within the Olympic villages have risen to 71, including some participants who will miss their scheduled games due to the mandatory 14-day quarantine.

Obviously, Japan could have never expected that when they won the bid to host the Olympics years ago that a pandemic would ravage the world. Yet, their response has been lackluster at best. Hopefully, all goes well, the games can go as smoothly as possible, and Japan can at least somewhat mitigate the damage already done.

(Contributed by Sean Duffy, Content Writer at VotingSmarter)