Bach: Sacrifices and compromises needed for Olympics rescheduling

IOC President Thomas Bach addresses during the Olympic flame lighting ceremony in ancient Olympia (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)

The International Olympic Committee has designated a taskforce to work on rescheduling the now-delayed 2020 Tokyo Games.

However, IOC President Thomas Bach said today (Wednesday) in a global media conference call that “sacrifices and compromises” will be required to make the reslotted event work in 2021.

Speaking a day after the event was officially pushed back due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, Bach said: “These postponed Olympic Games will need sacrifices, will need compromises from all stakeholders.”

Though just moving everything back one year would perhaps be the simplest maneuver for rescheduling the Olympics, that is not necessarily the only option. Bach said the event is not necessarily restricted to the summer months, and insisted the organization will be guided in part by public health guidance and what will be proper competitive environments, as well as a crowded event calendar across the rest of sports.

The IOC president remarked: “All the options are on the table, before and including the summer of 2021. Our mission is to organize the Games and make dreams of athletes come true. We want and will organize a Games only in a safe environment for all the participants.”

He added that he predicts the development of “a beautiful jigsaw puzzle and wonderful Olympic Games.”

A timeline to established a new date for the Games is not settled, but Bach said it will be “as soon as possible,” and that the taskforce will carry a moniker of “Here We Go.” 

The postponement is the first in Olympics history to be made not in a time of war. 

The delay decision earlier this week was fueled in part by what Bach called “a pretty alarming” report from the World Health Organization that Covid-19 was still accelerating in its spread around the world, data that helped amplify discussions with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe over rescheduling.

Notably, Bach also said that he expects agreements for global Olympics sponsors that were to expire this year after the Tokyo Games will roll over into the rescheduled 2021 event. Companies that would be impacted by that provision include Procter & Gamble, Dow, and General Electric.

The IOC president, however, had sharp words for Canada, which was the first country to insist it would not send its athletes to Tokyo if the Olympics had proceeded on its original schedule.

That country, citing concerns relating to Covid-19, was then followed by Australia, and the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee, which then cited internal survey data from its athletes indicating a vast majority could not train properly and did not believe staging the Games this summer would be fair. 

Bach, however, said it is an individual’s right to participate or not in an Olympics and is “not a decision to be taken by a majority vote of anybody.”

Bach was also questioned whether he had considered resigning amid widespread criticism the IOC took too long to respond to Covid-19 and reach a postponement decision, when essentially the rest of the entire global sports industry had already suspended operations. His response was a terse, “No.”

Speaking to SportBusiness, Olympic marketing expert Michael Payne said that the commercial and financial impact of the Olympics postponement may have been overplayed in some quarters.

Payne remarked: “The impact on revenue and cash flow is not as great as some people imply. The IOC and Olympic Family get their revenue from TV rights and TOP sponsorship deals. If the Games take place the rights stay intact but there may be adjustments required on cash flow…

“…in Japan the national Organising Committee has already done the heavy lifting… the major investments have been made. The costs there are about thing like delaying the sale of the apartments on the athlete’s village and keeping the national Organising Committee headcount up to speed.

“The TOP Partners I work with say they will support any IOC decision. If there is a postponement of a year it probably serves their marketing agenda even better as right now campaigns have had to be put on hold.”