An International Olympic Committee (IOC) spokesperson Tuesday denied that they have received a pitch from a Florida State official to host the Olympic Games in 2021 in place of Tokyo, instead reiterating a firm commitment to hold the Games in Japan’s capital July 23 as currently scheduled.
On Monday Florida Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis issued a statement claiming to have sent a letter to IOC President Thomas Bach requesting that he “relocate the 2021 Olympics from Tokyo to Florida.”
In the letter shared on the state government website, the CFO wrote “Whatever precautions are required let’s figure it out and get it done.”
He urged Bach to “Please contact my office … to schedule a meeting.”
The IOC spokesperson told GamesBids.com “the IOC has not received the letter,” and emphasized that the Games are set to open on July 23 in Tokyo.
Patronis was inspired to pen the request based on a report in The Times last week that suggested Tokyo officials had already decided to cancel the event due to the worsening pandemic situation in Japan.
He wrote “With media reports of leaders in Japan ‘privately’ concluding that they are too concerned about the pandemic for the 2021 Olympics to take place, there is still time to deploy a site selection team to Florida to meet with statewide and local officials on holding the Olympics in the Sunshine State.”
“I would welcome the opportunity to pitch Florida and help you make the right contacts to get this done.”
Both the IOC and the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee have since rebuked this reporting claiming that the Tokyo Games will move forward with no ‘plan b’ being considered.
In his letter Patronis points to Florida’s record of continuing to organize and host high-profile sports during the COVID-19 crisis including the National Basketball Association (NBA) “bubble” in Orlando, the Ultimate Fighting Championship in Jacksonville, and National Football League (NFL) matches including the Super Bowl between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs set to kick off February 7.
➡️ Read my full letter to the International Olympic Committee: https://t.co/8OkzDc3d7H
— Jimmy Patronis (@JimmyPatronis) January 25, 2021
He added that Florida’s theme parks continue to operate explaining “Disney serves as an incredible model for how to run a complex organization in the midst of COVID-19.”
But Florida’s strategy to keep sports and other businesses operating has come at a gruesome cost with over 1.6 million cases of coronavirus and more than 25,000 related deaths reported so far. In contrast, all of Japan has recorded 369,000 cases and over 5,000 fatalities.
On Monday U.S. President Joe Biden mandated travel restrictions that bar foreign nationals from arriving from several countries including many in Europe. Such restrictions that exist throughout the world are considered the biggest hurdle to organizing the Games this year.
Though this pitch isn’t being taken seriously due to the extensive and lengthy work required to properly prepare for a Games, any formal requests to stage the event would need to come from the national governing body – in this case the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC).
When asked for comment, a USOPC spokesperson told GamesBids.com “We were not made aware of the letter to President Bach in advance.”
“We invite American cities to indicate to us their interest in hosting a future Olympic and Paralympic Games, and we are happy to work with them through the education and fact-finding process.”
“We stand in support of the Tokyo Organizing Committee and Japanese government who have given more than seven years of focus and dedication to welcoming the athletes of the world, and honor their efforts to host a safe and successful Games this summer.”
Still, the story of a ‘possible’ Olympics in Florida has stolen headlines statewide.
Florida campaigned to host the 2012 Olympic Games but lost the domestic race to New York City. Those Games were eventually awarded to London. Los Angeles will be the next U.S. city to host the Games in 2028; Atlanta hosted the nation’s last Summer Games in 1996.
The race between the distribution of new vaccines and the emergence of new, more potent coronavirus variants is one competition that needs to be won, and soon, before all the other events can be contested as planned.
[Updated to include USOPC response to our request for comment]
A senior producer and award-winning journalist covering Olympic bid business as founder of GamesBids.com as well as providing freelance support for print and Web publications around the world. Robert Livingstone is a member of the Olympic Journalists Association and the International Society of Olympic Historians.