Can the Tokyo Games still be cancelled? Yes, but the legal and financial fallout would be staggering
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is adamant the Tokyo Olympics will begin as scheduled on July 23, followed by the Paralympic Games on August 24. Polls indicate the Japanese public is equally adamant that neither event should go ahead.
Public sentiment against the games has recently been accompanied by disquiet from local sponsors. A research institute has also argued that while cancelling the games would cost Japan ¥1.81 trillion (A$21.3 billion), the economic loss would still be smaller than the costs associated with a nationwide post-Olympics state of emergency.
And Naoto Ueyama, the head of the Japan Doctors Union, has even suggested the Olympics might prompt the mutation of a new COVID variant.
These medical and economic concerns are speculative, but they are nonetheless real.
A number of prefectures in Japan, including those in which Olympics events will take place, remain in a state of emergency, extended now to June 20. And Japan’s vaccination rate is one of the lowest in the developed world, at less than 5%.
Both of the above factors support the wider public’s concern that the risks of hosting the games in July appear too high to continue.
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- Tags: Athlete Welfare | Breach of Contract | Contract | Force Majeure | Governance | Insurance | International Olympic Committee | Japan | Olympics | Regulation | Safeguarding | Tokyo 2020
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Jack Anderson is Special Counsel (Integrity Regulation) at Racing Victoria. Formerly Professor and Director of Sports Law Studies at the University of Melbourne, he has published extensively on sports law, most recently with D Thorpe, A Buti, P Jonson & J Anderson, Sports Law (4th ed, OUP, 2022).
He is a member of World Athletics’ Disciplinary Tribunal, the integrity unit of the International Hockey Federation, and the International Tennis Federation’s Ethics Commission. Jack is an arbitrator on Football Australia’s National Dispute Resolution Chamber, the National Sports Tribunal of Australia and Sport Resolutions UK.
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