The Tokyo 2020 Olympics will be postponed until 2021 because of coronavirus, International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Dick Pound told USA Today Monday.
The news comes 24 hours after the IOC announced for the first time that postponement could be in the cards.
The IOC has faced increasing pressure from athletes, international sports federations, and over 200 national Olympic committees to pull the plug on the games, which were looking increasingly unfeasible in the face of the crisis.
On Sunday, Canada’s Olympic committee said it would not send a team to the games if they were to go ahead this summer. Meanwhile, Australia’s Olympic committee notified its athletes to prepare for competition in 2021.
This prompted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday to acknowledge that postponement could be unavoidable. He told the country’s parliament that he would favor postponement over holding an event in “an incomplete way.”
Euros a Bigger Loss that Tokyo 2020
The news came as little shock to the betting industry, which had already factored the cancellation of the Olympics into profit warnings issued last week.
2020 was set to be a bumper year for the bookies, although the loss of the Euro 2020 soccer tournament — also bumped to 2021 — will be considered more painful from a revenue standpoint.
But the Olympics is a still a huge betting event that has the power to emotionally engage people who do not habitually follow sports or make wagers.
The UK betting industry reported that it handled $1 billion in bets during London 2012, figures that were buoyed by the host nation buzz.
But that’s a drop in the ocean compared to the Euros, which is the second biggest betting event in the world after the World Cup. At the last tournament in 2016, William Hill said it alone handled around $500 million.
Light On, Nobody Home
The Olympic flame arrived in Japan two days ago with little of the pomp and circumstance that usually accompanies such an event – and no crowds to welcome it.
Ironically the flame, is a symbol of continuity — between the ancient and modern games — but on Friday, it seemed to symbolize a country in denial, one that has spent seven years and billions of dollars preparing for the event.
Officially, Japan will spend $12.6 billion to organize the Olympics, although a recent national audit put the real figure at twice that. Postponement will undoubtedly see costs rise further.
But Former IOC marketing director Michael Payne told the AP Sunday that the delay might just work out for Japan, creating an Olympics that will be remembered forever.
“What better platform is there going to be than the Olympic Games when the world has pulled through the virus,” he asked. “You’ve got a dynamic that will be even more powerful for Japan and the rest of the world. But you are going to have a tough road getting there.”