Stripped-down 2020 Olympics to focus on athletes, organiser says

To pull off the first postponed Olympics in modern history, Tokyo 2020 organisers have said they’ll strip out much of the spectacle that typically characterises the events. Now they have to figure out what, exactly, that means.

As plans begin to take shape, sports director of the Tokyo Organising Committee says details that used to previously go unnoticed, like the sounds athletes make in quiet stadiums, will take on more focus. That will bring new perspectives and business opportunities, committee member Koji Murofushi said in an interview last week, without elaborating.

“Have you ever heard the sound of a steel wire attached to the hammer when it flies through the air? Or the sound of runners’ spikes on the track and water splashing at the swimming pool?” said Murofushi, who won a gold medal in the men’s hammer throw in the 2004 Olympic games and a bronze in 2012.

Originally scheduled for this summer, the event was postponed by a year in March due to the coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 850,000 people worldwide. Organisers are considering cost-cuts in more than 200 areas, with discussions set to start in the fall. That could include limiting spectators and reducing the size of ceremonies, according to local media reports.

With second waves of infections hitting countries around the world, and without any vaccine, the organisers are likely to see continued challenges. According to a Kyodo News poll conducted in July, only one in four people in Japan support holding the games next year.

Adding to the uncertainty is the abrupt resignation of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who played a major role in Tokyo’s winning bid to host.

Murofushi, who spoke before Abe’s resignation, said the committee is devoted to the safety of the games. Some athletes are still facing uncertainties as qualifier tournaments and races are being cancelled, and the IOC and sports federations should deliver a fair solution sooner than later, he said.

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