In a March 22 letter to Olympic athletes, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach announced that the committee set a four-week deadline to decide whether to postpone the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games due to the rapid development of the worldwide coronavirus COVID-19 epidemic.

Bach said that cancellation is not on the agenda.

Canada Calls for Postponement

Following the release of Bach’s letter, the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) announced they will not send athletes to the Olympic and Paralympic Games in the summer of 2020. In a released statement, the COC “urgently” called for the IOC to postpone the games for one year.

According to the World Health Organization, as of writing Japan has 1,089 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with a total of nearly 335,000 confirmed cases in 189 countries worldwide. Bach said “the significant improvements in Japan” give the committee confidence that Japan can host the Olympic Games.

“On the other hand, we have seen a dramatic increase in cases and new outbreaks of the virus in different countries on different continents,” said Bach.

According to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Canadian IOC member Dick Pound told reporters he believes the Tokyo Games will be postponed.

On March 23, the Australian Olympic Committee also notified Australian athletes that they should prepare for the Tokyo Olympic Games to be held in the summer of 2021.

The Challenges Ahead

If the Tokyo Olympics are postponed, Bach said just a few of the challenges are that a number of venues needed for the Games could potentially not be available, millions of nights at hotels are already booked, and the international sports calendar for at least 33 Olympic would have to be adapted.

“We are in a dilemma,” said Bach. “Cancellation of the Olympic Games would destroy the Olympic dream of 11,000 athletes.”

According to NHK News, Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has expressed his willingness to postpone the Olympics if the Games cannot be fully implemented. According to The Japan Times, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike agreed with Abe’s assessment, and said if Tokyo sees an “explosive” increase in coronavirus cases that a lockdown of Tokyo is possible.

The Cost of Postponing Tokyo 2020

When Tokyo was awarded the bid in 2013 to host the 2020 Summer Games, the government stated that the total cost would be $2.5 billion (¥277.7 billion). Economists have predicted that the Olympics would boost Japan’s economy by $18 billion (¥2 trillion).

According to NHK News reports, the economic loss of postponing the Olympics for one year would be more than $5.7 billion (¥640 billion).