A Tokyo 2020 cancellation could derail 2032 Olympic bids

Amid unconfirmed reports that the Japanese government secretly considers the opening of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in July unlikely, regions lining up to host the 2032 edition are paying attention.

IOC President Thomas Bach visits the new Olympic Stadium in Tokyo November 17, 2020 (IOC Photo)

IOC President Thomas Bach visits the new Olympic Stadium in Tokyo November 17, 2020 (IOC Photo)

The Games originally scheduled to be held last summer were postponed exactly one year due to the Coronavirus pandemic. But with new cases surging in Japan and across the world, and new more transmissible variants emerging, preparations to open this coming July 23 are at significant risk.

Tokyo remains in a state of emergency with several restrictions in place aimed at curbing infection rates, and last week a Kyodo News survey revealed that 80 percent of respondents across Japan want the Games further postponed or cancelled.

An unnamed senior member of Japan’s ruling coalition revealed to The Times “No one wants to be the first to say so but the consensus is that it’s too difficult [to host]”

“Personally, I don’t think it’s going to happen.”

The Times further indicates that Japan has already decided to cancel this summer’s event, but are maintaining the illusion that the Games remain on course so that when a decision to suspend the event happens later, Tokyo will earn greater sympathy for its diligence.

The hope, according the the source, is that Tokyo will be awarded the 2032 Games instead.

“[Prime Minister] Suga is not emotionally invested in the Games,” the source said.

“But they want to show that they are ready to go, so that they will get another chance in 11 years. In these circumstances, no one could really object to that.”

Paris has been awarded the 2024 edition of the Games and Los Angeles was chosen to stage in 2028 as part of a dual allocation made by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 2017. The next available Games will occur in 2032.

Several regions have already been discussing campaigns to host in 2032, led by Brisbane in Australia that launched a formal process last January but temporarily halted it during the pandemic.

IOC President Thomas Bach meets with the Australian Olympic bid delegation from Queensland on September 10, 2019. (Annastacia Palaszczuk – Premier Queensland, Ted O’Brien – Representing Prime Minister, Mike Jamieson – Council of Mayors) (IOC Photo)

The IOC’s Tokyo 2020 Coordination Commission Chair John Coates who is also head of the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) supporting Brisbane’s bid vehemently denies Tokyo’s change of course for 2032.

He told the Sydney Morning Herald “There’s been no discussion on that at all.”

“There is no discussion on 2032 with Japan because there is no discussion on not proceeding in Japan.”

The Japanese government officials also rejected the claims at a press conference Friday and an IOC statement released on the issue stated “Together with its Japanese partners and friends, the IOC is fully concentrated on and committed to the successful delivery of the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 this year.”

Further, the IOC claim the rumors are “categorially untrue.”

Other regions that have been discussing bids for the 2032 Games include Jakarta in Indonesia, Doha in Qatar, a regional project in Germany, the Netherlands, a joint Unified Korean bid from Seoul and Pyongyang, a joint bid from Chengdu and Chongqing in China, and Istanbul in Turkey.

The IOC has not set a timeline for siting the 2032 event but the process has slowed while the pandemic continues to rage.

The source for The Times explained that Japanese officials are waiting for an excuse before pulling the plug on the July Games’ opening, and said “If someone like [U.S.] President Biden was to say that U.S. athletes cannot go, then we could say, ‘Well, now it is impossible’.”

That kind of denial, it is believed, would provide enough reason for the IOC to automatically award the 2032 Games to Tokyo.

Robert Livingstone

About Robert Livingstone


A senior producer, award-winning journalist and author, 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.