Senior international Olympics official John Coates says the delayed Tokyo Olympics could end up being the greatest Games ever, coming next year as the world emerges from COVID-19 crisis.
- The Games of the XXXII Olympiad, known as the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, were postponed from July-August 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic
- The Games are now due to begin on July 23, 2021, but questions have been raised over their future if the pandemic is not stopped before then
- World War I forced the cancellation of the 1916 Olympics (set for Berlin), and the 1940 and 1944 Games (Tokyo, London) were scrapped due to World War II
Coates, Australia’s Olympic chief and head of the International Olympic Committee’s inspectorate for the Games, cited the examples of positive Summer Games that followed the two World Wars of the 20th century.
Coates said he thought Tokyo could surpass even the reputation of the 2000 Sydney Games, which he helped organise and which were described by then-IOC chief Juan Antonio Samaranch as “the best Olympic Games ever”.
“Because we all must wait longer than the already-long wait for an Olympics, the Games of Tokyo will gently but perceptibly echo the sheer joy and relief of the other delayed Olympics of Antwerp in 1920 and London in 1948,” he told the annual general meeting of the Australian Olympic Committee.
Turning to future “opportunity”, Coates told the online meeting that the proposal for Australia to host the Summer Olympics for the third time in 2032 was gathering pace.
The bid centred on South-East Queensland was given the official backing of the AOC in January, and is now in the phase of “continuous dialogue” with the IOC’s Future Host Commission.
Coates said planning for venues, mostly already existing or temporary, and athletes villages was progressing and the necessary support of local, state and national government was largely in place.
Coates, who ran a failed bid to host the Games in Brisbane in 1992, said an Olympics could provide an economic catalyst to help Queensland and Australia out of the expected post-coronavirus recession.
“I have always believed in making necessity a virtue. There is already a need for jobs and growth in the Queensland economy arising from the impact of COVID-19,” he said.
“Our [government partners] recognise a potential 2032 … Games as a critical part of the state and nation’s economic recovery in the short term, quite apart from all of the long-term health, wellbeing, economic and sporting legacies.”
A decision over which city or region would host the 2032 Olympics could be made as early as 2022, he added.
Bids from India, Indonesia and a joint proposal from North and South Korea have also been mooted.
Coates also said he was confident the body was financially in “good order” to come through “this time of some chaos” after a raft of cost-cutting measures.
After the AGM, he told ABC’s The Ticket that the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics did not depend on the production of a vaccine.
“It’s not driving, it’s not dictating those discussions. The position is we get a report on it, I’m doing my own inquiries, I’m following it, the IOC’s following it, [a vaccine] would certainly relieve a lot of pressure,” Coates said.
“There would still be the issue of production of sufficient amounts of any vaccine — if there is one that’s found.
“If there are still issues in Japan —we don’t have to take this decision [yet], we’re still more than a year out — then maybe we’d have to just look at whether we need to modify our approach in any ways.
“The African continent is always a great worry to the IOC, and we know that they don’t have the health resources [that others do]. We help them in refugee teams … and we’d be sure that UNHCR, we’d be sure that the WHO would be addressing those [concerns].”