Dick Pound says fans are optional for the Olympics

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Former IOC Vice-President Dick pound say it Tokyo Olympics could go on without fans. And he predicted the games would open on July 23 despite the surge in coronavirus cases in Japan and around the world.

“The question is – is it a ‘must have’ or ‘nice-to-have’. It’s good to have an audience. But it’s not a must-have,” Pound said in an interview with The Japanese Kyodo news agency published Thursday.

Pound is no longer a part of the IOC’s Executive Decision-making Board, but he spoke recently to generate excitement for the postponed Olympics.

His comments come as recent polls in Japan show 80% of the public believe the Olympics should not happen with an increase in cases of the virus – or will not happen.

Pound, a veteran Canadian Olympic official and inaugural president of the World Anti-Doping Agency, reiterated what the IOC and local organizers have been saying for months: The games will be canceled if they cannot take place this time around. There will be no further postponement.

“It’s either 2021 or nothing,” he said.

Pound said that “no one can guarantee that the Olympics will open on July 23. But I think there’s a very, very, good chance that they can, and they do.”

Pound’s words suggest the Olympics could take the form of a largely TV-only event with athletes kept in a bubble, transported back and forth to venues and encouraged to leave Japan as soon as their participation ends. .

Japanese media said the opening ceremony would be limited to 6,000 athletes. About 11,000 people are expected to participate in the Olympics. Paralympic Games add 4,400 more athletes.

For the Swiss-based International Olympic Committee, getting the event on television – fans or no fans – is essential to its finances. IOC President Thomas Bach admitted that finances were under “pressure” due to the one-year delay.

The IOC derives 73% of its income from the sale of broadcasting rights. In Tokyo, that could represent $ 2 billion to $ 3 billion in lost revenue if the games were canceled.

“I think the IOC and the organizers are determined to move the games forward if possible,” said Pound. “And so they’re not going to cancel unless there is a consensus between the government, health authorities and the IOC that it would be too dangerous.”

“But at the moment the plans are in place. Everything indicates that we should move forward. There is no reason why the games cannot continue.”

The local organizing committee budgeted $ 800 million in revenue from ticket sales. The absence of fans would mean a shortfall. Any deficit will have to be borne by various Japanese government entities.

Officially, Japan says it is spending $ 15.4 billion to prepare for the Olympics, but several government audits suggest it’s $ 25 billion or more. Everything but $ 6.7 is public money.

The budget of the local organizing committee shows that the IOC contributes around 1.3 billion dollars to the financing of the Olympic Games.

A study from the University of Oxford published last year showed Tokyo to be the most expensive summer Olympics on record.

One date to watch is March 25, when the torch relay begins with 10,000 runners heading to Tokyo for a four-month trip. Kyodo said Pound had suggested the relay could be shortened or canceled if necessary.

There was talk of canceling the relay early on, but it is heavily sponsored by Toyota and Coca-Cola.

Tokyo and several other prefectures are in a state of emergency until at least February 7. Japan has attributed around 4,700 deaths from COVID-19, relatively low for a country of 125 million people.

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