Tokyo Games finances, COVID hurts budgets

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Only months into the COVID-19 pandemic, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced that the Tokyo Olympic Games, originally scheduled for July 2020, would be postponed until 2021.

The postponement cost competing nations millions of dollars.

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For Japan, it’s added an estimated $4 billion to the planned cost of hosting the Games. The recent decision to ban spectators from events is estimated to have stripped Japan of a further $1 billion in ticket sales.

But this was a better option than cancelling the games altogether, which would have cost Japan up to $21 billion.

The total cost of the upcoming Games is now estimated at around $33 billion, and with the IOC contributing only $650 million, Tokyo 2020 is now the most expensive modern Olympic Games by more than $10 billion. The London 2012 Games is the next most expensive, coming in at a final cost of approximately $20.4 billion, closely followed by Rio 2016 at $18.7 billion.

In contrast, hosting the Sydney 2000 Olympics cost Australia only $6.9 billion.

The skyrocketing costs involved for cities hosting the Olympics will no doubt be an issue of concern for Brisbane, who yesterday won the right to host the 2032 Games.

For Australia in 2021, the cost of postponement comes down to supporting the 472 athletes representing the country.

The recent Federal Budget has put Australia’s elite athletes on the receiving end of more than $130m. This funding is being used to support Olympic competitors and ensure that the global pandemic doesn’t harm Australia’s place in the sporting world.

On June 30, 2020, then-Minister for Sport Richard Colbeck announced that $50.6m from the federal government would be spent backing our athletes to ensure that “Australia remains a world-leading sporting nation”.

Athletes already performing at high levels are grateful for the support, with artistic swimmer Alessandra Ho describing how the money has helped full-time athletes.

“(State) Minister (Mick) Murray from WA, he was really supportive,” said Ho.

“And he, I think, gave us $4,000, which was really nice and helped us a lot financially.

“And WAIS (Western Australian Institute of Sport), they’ve covered all our costs this year. Because we’re actually staying in Canberra and training (here) full time… a lot of us had to give up our jobs to move to Canberra. So, it’s definitely been a big help.”

A spokesperson for Senator Colbeck added that the grant of $50.6m “is over and above an existing base investment in direct grants to National Sporting Organisations (NSOs) of more than $125m per annum, including $14m in direct athlete grants.”

This is on top of a further $138.2m in the federal budget, $82.2m of which is “in support for athlete performance pathways and mental health and wellbeing”.

But the consequence of this funding being allocated directly to the NSOs is that the money only reaches the wider sporting industry through a trickle-down effect. This starts with the Australian Institute of Sport, which then divides the funds between various sporting bodies, as outlined in their investment guidelines.

Not all sporting clubs rely on NSOs for funding, however. For example, the pandemic’s impact on the education sector meant that UTS Rowing had to cut back on training hours after losing some of their university funding. The club have four athletes competing in Tokyo.

The postponed Games are planned to run from July 23 until August 8 but will keep the “Tokyo 2020” branding as a symbolic “beacon of hope to the world during these troubled times”.

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