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Fan attendance still targeted for ‘new norm’ Tokyo Olympics – Coates

John Coates speaks to the media following the Australian Olympic Committee Annual General Meeting on May 9, 2020 (by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

International Olympic Committee vice-president and chair of the Coordination Commission for Tokyo’s summer Olympic Games, John Coates, has said organisers are still planning for events to be held with fans in attendance, adding that the rescheduled Games could represent the “new norm” for future Olympics.

The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Tokyo 2020) this month confirmed the schedule for the postponed Olympics after locking down all 43 venues for next year’s multi-sport event.

Securing the venues once again was one of the main challenges facing organisers after March’s announcement that the 2020 Olympics would be rescheduled to begin July 23, 2021, and run through August 8 of next year.

Amid Covid-19, there are still questions over whether the Games can be safely held with spectators in the venues, but Coates, who is also president of the Australian Olympic Committee, said that while there will be changes to reduce costs and ensure the health of athletes, venues filled with fans are still very much part of the planning. “The crowds are an important part of it and it is very much in our planning to maintain that,” he told the Reuters news agency.

Tokyo 2020, the IOC and the International Paralympic Committee agreed in April that, given the critical impact of the competition schedule on every aspect of preparation, each session of the 2021 competition would in principle be scheduled as originally planned for 2020. This was reflected in this month’s confirmed competition schedule, with the start and end times of certain events adjusted for operational reasons.

Events in 2021 will take place at the same competition venues that were planned to be used in 2020. This means all 43 competition venues, the Olympic Village, and the International Broadcast Centre and Main Press Centre remain in place for the Olympic Games in 2021.

With the Games having already reached a reported price tag of $12.35bn (€10.5bn), more than 200 measures have been proposed in an effort to simplify the Olympics and offset further cost increases caused by the postponement. “Not all will be adopted because we have to make sure they don’t affect the athletes and the sports, and that they are acceptable to both sides, but we’re working through them,” Coates said.

He cited the decision to drop the opening ceremony for the IOC meeting that traditionally precedes the Games, as an example of these efforts. “That will now be three speeches at the start of the session,” said Coates. “And that might save you half a million dollars.”

In cutting costs and simplifying the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, the IOC must also ensure they are organised efficiently, safely and sustainably, Coates said this month. Coates told Reuters that efforts to restructure the Games are in-line with the ‘Agenda 2020’ reform project being driven by IOC president Thomas Bach, adding that some of the changes for Tokyo could become the “new norm” for hosting the Olympics.

“What we’re having to do now, sure, it’s taking it to a new degree but it’s the intention of the thinking (of Agenda 2020),” he added. “Some of those areas could well further reduce the complexity, and thus the cost, of hosting Games in the future. That’s the opportunity.”