Why Are the Olympics Still Happening? These Numbers Explain It.


The Olympic Games have at all times been about numbers. After all, a motto of Citius, Altius, Fortius — sooner, greater, stronger — doesn’t imply a lot with out seconds, meters and kilos. How quick? How excessive? How robust?

For greater than a 12 months, although, a distinct set of numbers has come to dominate discussions about the Tokyo Games: rising coronavirus case counts, escalating danger components, insufficient vaccination totals.

Despite these considerations, the Games are virtually sure to go ahead this summer season: The newest proof was the announcement on Monday that domestic spectators would be allowed to attend Olympic events at lowered capacities.

These numbers might assist clarify why — a month earlier than the opening ceremony — the Games are nonetheless a go.


If Tokyo’s new nationwide stadium stands empty on the night time of the opening ceremony, that might be $15.4 billion in funding principally down the drain. The determine, a document even for famously outsized Olympic budgets, has swelled $three billion in the previous 12 months alone. The reputational harm to Japan, although, on high of the lack of cash, could be incalculable.

“This was the branding exercise that was going to showcase the lifestyle superpower of the earth,” stated Jesper Koll, an funding adviser who has lived in Japan for greater than three a long time. “At the end of the day, it is not about whether the construction costs are recouped or not, but it is about whether the brand of the country gets a boost.”

Much of the upside that Tokyo hoteliers or eating places might have anticipated from internet hosting the Games has already evaporated, as organizers banned international spectators in March. And even the Olympic guests who might be allowed to enter Japan is not going to get to expertise most of Tokyo’s charms as a result of the guidelines restrict them to Olympic venues.


That’s the potential quantity of tv rights earnings that the International Olympic Committee, which organizes and runs the Games, might should refund if the Olympics will not be held. The determine accounts for 73 percent of the I.O.C.’s revenue. Sponsorships associated to the Games account for tons of of thousands and thousands of {dollars} extra, and a cancellation would imply these corporations might come in search of rebates, too.


The U.S. broadcasting rights to the Summer Olympics are amongst the most beneficial sports activities properties in the world, and the promoting income they produce recurrently makes them amongst the most worthwhile, too. In March 2020, NBC Universal, which holds the U.S. broadcast rights to the Games, introduced it had bought $1.25 billion in nationwide promoting for the Tokyo Olympics. That exceeded the quantity bought for the 2016 Rio Olympics, which had generated $1.62 billion in complete income for the firm and $250 million in earnings.

And not even a 12 months’s delay might damage NBC’s backside line. Jeff Shell, the chief govt of NBC Universal, advised an investor convention final week that, relying upon rankings, the Tokyo Olympics “could be our most profitable Olympics in the history of the company.”


The phrase “solidarity” comes up 406 occasions in the I.O.C.’s newest annual report. The most vital reference is to the $549 million it distributes in so-called solidarity and other payments to nationwide Olympic committees massive and small. (The I.O.C.’s accounts don’t present a breakdown of who will get what).

To many Olympic committees, the I.O.C.’s largess — which pays for every part from administrative prices to coaching subsidies to youth growth packages — is a crucial monetary lifeline. In the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, for instance, I.O.C. funding represents round 1 / 4 of the nationwide Olympic committee’s $600,000 annual earnings, based on Richard Peterkin, a former I.O.C. member.

But bigger international locations depend on the cash, too. Earlier this 12 months, the British Olympic Association raised the prospect of a monetary meltdown in its annual report if this summer season’s Games have been canceled. “Cancellation of the Games later than May 2021,” its administrators concluded lately, “would create a material uncertainty that may cast significant doubt about the company’s ability to continue as a going concern.”


The postponement of the Olympics compelled 1000’s of the athletes — about 11,100 for the Olympics and one other 4,400 for the Paralympics, collectively representing greater than 200 international locations — to place their lives on maintain for a 12 months. To recommit to a different 12 months of coaching. To delay marriage plans and faculty enrollments and even plans to have kids. So it’s no shock that, by and huge, rivals worldwide are longing for the Games to lastly happen.

“My next chapter was supposed to be happening already,” stated Delante Johnson, 22, a boxer from Cleveland who had aimed to show skilled in 2021. He determined to maintain his newbie standing for one more 12 months, partially, to meet a promise he had made to his former coach, Clint Martin, who died in 2015. “He always told me I’d go to the Olympics,” Johnson stated, “and I’m holding on to what he said.”

For Olympians who’ve organized their complete lives to chase their goals, the Games are every part. They can open the door to sponsorship alternatives, to bonus cash for medals, to post-competition careers. For many, in addition they provide the uncommon likelihood to carry out in entrance of a world viewers. “We’re finally allowed to have that excitement, and I’m just giddy,” stated Kaleigh Gilchrist, 29, a water polo participant from Newport Beach, Calif. “We can finally showcase all the hard work we’ve put in.”


That’s the present favorability score for Japan’s prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, who might concern his political fortunes at the moment are tied too intently to the Games to cancel them. “Politically he’s dead in the water if he pulls the plug,” stated Jeff Kingston, the director of Asian research at Temple University in Tokyo. With nationwide elections looming in September, Kingston stated, Suga might now see the Olympics as a possible lifeline.

For Suga and his authorities, staging a profitable — and protected — Olympics would provide an enormous political upside. The draw back, after all, is the danger of a public well being catastrophe that prices lives and pummels Japan’s economy. That would inflict harm much more severe than simply harming Suga’s private political fame.

“This is the potential making of the Godzilla variant,” Kingston stated. “Is that how Tokyo wants to be remembered?”



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