Will this be the world’s first view-from-home-only Olympics?

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) recently released a handbook outlining the Coronavirus safety plans that will be implemented during the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. Instead of solidifying how the games will be run amidst a pandemic however, the 32-page report left a lot of questions unanswered. 

Will the Tokyo Olympics happen?

With the opening ceremony only 170 days away, the IOC is struggling to determine how they can ensure the safety of 10,000+ olympians and their coaches, not to mention thousands of IOC staff and journalists. The game plan the IOC released did little to clarify this matter. 

According to The New York Times, “the best [the IOC] could offer were the contours of a plan.” 

The plan noted “severe restrictions on movement and socializing,” along with mandatory mask rules, however “athletes and other attendees will not be required to be vaccinated or to quarantine on arrival in Japan.” 

Whether or not spectators would even be allowed was not mentioned in the playbook, leaving everyone to wonder whether this could be the first watch-at-home-only Olympic games in history.

A Stop-Loss Order

“Tokyo has already spent about $25 billion to organize these Olympics, most of which is public money,” explains the Hollywood Reporter. Yet the amount that they’re set to gain from the games dwindles at the possibility of an event with no spectators. 

According to a recent study by Japan’s Kansai University, “holding the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics without spectators would cost the country an economic loss of $23 billion in forgone consumer and business spending and other economic stimulus effects.”

The IOC itself would be hit hardest if the games were cancelled, however. Seventy-three percent of their total income comes from selling broadcast rights to the games. While a spectator-free event would be economic devastation for Japan, the IOC would fare much better with no spectators, than from a total cancellation. The same goes for the networks who have bought the rights to air the event.

A Network Event

Comcast’s NBCUniversal is one of the license agreement holders for the Olympic games, and their plan was to air the event on their new streaming service, Peacock. Discovery Inc., who owns European broadcast rights, was also planning on using the games to “promote its Discovery+ streaming service in some Euro markets.

While both Comcast and Discovery Inc. say that  “they are fully insured against their Olympics expenses,” the opportunity to promote their fledgling streamers on such a grand stage is one that couldn’t be repaid. 

“We anticipate these kinds of things … so that we’re protected there, and we also have insurance for any expenses we make,” explained Comcast CEO Brian Roberts as reported by the Hollywood Reporter. He went on to say that there “should be no losses,” adding, however, that “there wouldn’t be a profit” either.

A Different Sort of Games

Still, many people are happy to see the level of dedication the organizers of the postponed 2020 Tokyo Olympics have shown to hold the event in 2021, even amidst a continuing pandemic and a lack of support from the Japanese population

And while the playing field of viruses and vaccines is rapidly changing, event organizers have publicly stated that they “ are not willing to see the Games without spectators”.

“Tokyo 2020 is making efforts to accommodate spectators as much as possible, while implementing thorough measures to prevent infection,” said the IOC in a statement to Aljazeera. “The upper limit on the number of spectators will be in line with the limits in force in Japan at the time.”