Asia Minute: Tokyo Olympics and the Coronavirus

Mar 17, 2020

As cases of the novel coronavirus continue to grow in the United States and elsewhere, many events around the world are being cancelled or postponed. But at least one big question mark remains: the Tokyo Olympics.

The Tokyo Olympics will be the topic of a high-level teleconference today.

Bloomberg reports the International Olympic Committee is holding its second executive board meeting in the last two weeks on the topic of whether to go ahead with the games on the current timetable — from July 24th to August 9th.

As recently as a few days ago, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe insisted the games would absolutely go ahead as scheduled.

But after a G-7 leaders’ video conference about the coronavirus on Monday, Abe dropped a specific reference to the dates – saying instead, “I want to hold the Olympics and Paralympics perfectly, as proof that the human race will conquer the new coronavirus, and I gained support for that from the G-7 leaders.”

Elsewhere there is growing skepticism about holding the games starting in July. Kyodo News did a telephone survey of more than a thousand people over the weekend. 70% said they do not expect the games to be held as scheduled.

A new report by SMBC Nikko Securities says a cancellation of the Olympics would cut Japan’s annual gross domestic product by nearly 1.5%.

Reuters quotes government sources as saying policymakers are already weighing the risk of cancelling the games as they put together projections for the economic outlook of the coming fiscal year — which gets underway on April 1st.