IOC Vice-President John Coates: Olympics Will Happen

The postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics will go ahead next year, pandemic or not, IOC vice-president John Coates told the AFP on Monday.

In a phone interview, Coates said that the Tokyo Olympics would be the “Games that conquered Covid,” referring to the COVID-19 disease stemming from the novel coronavirus outbreak that has plagued the world over the last 6 months.

“The Games were going to be, their theme, the Reconstruction Games after the devastation of the tsunami,” he added, referring to a catastrophic earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan in 2011.

“Now very much these will be the Games that conquered Covid, the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Coates’ statement comes in spite of Japan’s borders being closed to most visitors, and without any caveats for a vaccine.

Earlier this year, about half of Japanese athletics federations said that they wanted a decision before the end of the year on whether to hold the Olympic Games next year or not. The Tokyo Organizing Committee, on the other hand, says that they would prefer to see a decision made in the spring of 2021.

Coates’ announcement comes as one of the key stakeholders, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, resigned from his post 2 weeks ago, citing a relapse of ulcerative colitis. He will remain in office until his Liberal Democratic Party chooses a replacement, which local pundits speculate could be later this month.

His favored replacement, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, is expected to continue Abe’s path on pushing forward for a 2021 Games, however.

Preparations are Key

Coates pointed to Tokyo’s preparations as key for the ability to push forward in spite of complications presented by the delay

“Before Covid, (IOC president) Thomas Bach said this is the best prepared Games we’ve ever seen, the venues were almost all finished, they are now finished, the village is amazing, all the transport arrangements, everything is fine,” he said.

“Now it’s been postponed by one year, that’s presented a monumental task in terms of re-securing all the venues… something like 43 hotels we had to get out of those contracts and re-negotiate for a year later.

“Sponsorships had to be extended a year, broadcast rights.”

The IOC has established a task force to review things like how athletes and officials would be able to enter the country amid border controls and whether the Games can be held with spectators. That group, which includes Japanese and IOC administrators, met for the first time last week.

“Their job now is to look at all the different counter-measures that will be required for the Games to take place,” said Coates.

“Some countries will have it (Covid) under control, some won’t. We’ll have athletes therefore coming from places where it’s under control and some where it is not.

“There’s 206 teams… so there’s a massive task being undertaken on the Japanese side.”

Coates is the head of the Australian Olympic Committee and was vice-president of the successful Sydney 2000 Olympic bid.

His native Australia has been among the most successful countries in limiting the spread of the virus, with just 26,322 cases leading to 762 deaths amid a population of 25 million. In spite of a surge in new cases in July and August, Australia has averaged fewer than 100 new cases per day over the last week.

Australia’s prime minister said on Sunday that he is expecting the country to receive its first batch of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on January 2021, with 3.8 million doses expected to be available early next year. AstaZeneca, in partnership with the University of Oxford, is working on one of the most promising late-stage vaccines globally.

The host country of Japan has seen just over 71,000 coronavirus cases leading to 1,357 deaths amid its population of 126 million, which likewise makes it one of the lowest infection rates per-capita in the world.

The global trend, which has never really receded since large outbreaks began in February, are generally stable over the last few weeks, with around 250,000 new daily cases around the world leading to about 5,500 daily deaths.

The interview with Coates led to a spike in stock price by Dentsu Group Inc., which is the marketing firm responsible for managing advertisements for what is expected to be the highest-grossing sponsorship package in Olympic history. Shares in the company rose 7.1% on the news.

The Tokyo Olympics are now scheduled to happen from July 23 to August 8, 2021.

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1 year ago

Gee I hope he’s correct.

1 year ago


Joe Mama
1 year ago

Lets Goooooo now every lsc and high school league should follow in their footsteps. WE WANT TO SWIM #coronahoax#plandemic

Reply to  Joe Mama
1 year ago

The fact that you made a WORLD wide pandemic somehow political shows how inept you are to comment

Inclusive Parent
1 year ago

It’s easy to say this 9 months out… We’ve only been dealing with this for 6 months in the US… who the hell knows…

Ol' Longhorn
Reply to  Inclusive Parent
1 year ago

Well, since we’ll have a vaccine before November (lol), no problem. Plus it will just disappear.

Reply to  Ol' Longhorn
1 year ago

you prob interpreted him saying to drink bleach too.sheesh

Reply to  Meeeeeee
1 year ago

You’re right he didn’t say to drink it, he said we should find a way to inject it. Much better! 🙄

Reply to  Inclusive Parent
1 year ago

IOC March 2020: “Olympics will happen” 🙂

Reply to  Jorge
1 year ago

Well… the statement is technically correct

1 year ago

That’s great news for all our athletes that worked so hard for it!

1 year ago

Think not!

1 year ago

This is the same guy that said the Tokyo olympics would definitely run in 2020 as well. How much of it is branding for the business side of things and how much is genuine truth.

Corn Pop
1 year ago

Australians are not allowed out of the country till Dec & PM were a short time ago prepping ppl prepare for no overseas trips till July.

Reply to  Corn Pop
1 year ago

Not true. There are lot of athletes from other sports who’ve been given exemptions and are overseas competing right now. I’d be very surprised exemptions for ISL haven’t already been arranged.

Corn Pop
Reply to  Troyy
1 year ago

J don’t know about any sportsppl allowed out . The categories are compassionate exemption & business. . About 1 month ago I saw there was a 25% permission rate of all applications . 90,000 had applied for 23,000 yays. Apparently reams of documents are required .

What is taken into account is return as there is a 4000 per week entry limit until Vic t oria clears up their mess. Maybe those ppl are not returning in the short term to clogg up Quarantine .

The ISL slated for Hungary in Oct – Nov will make a return in Dec . Can swimmers afford a 2 week hotel quarantine in Dec of a maybe Olympic prep? Embassies… Read more »

Reply to  Corn Pop
1 year ago

Rob Whittaker fought in the UAE in late July.

Australian and Aus state governments have made many exemptions for professional athletes. Because travelling internationally to compete IS business.

The AFL and NRL have been able to relocate teams, tennis players have been allowed to leave the country to compete.

I am sure there are countless other examples.

For the ISL I can’t say with confidence given its lack of stature as a competition at this stage. But if the Olympics happens Australia will be there.

Last edited 1 year ago by M D E
Reply to  M D E
1 year ago

Agree that ISL receiving an exemption is far from a sure thing but it is true that Australian sportspeople involved in top level professional competitions have received clearances. Most AUS male pro cyclists are Euro based but a number of AUS women riding for major pro teams were cleared.

I DO take Coates’ comments with the required cynicism. He used to be far more “reality based” but since ascending to the higher echelons of the IOC, he has become just another mouthpiece of the Olympic “industry” and as a result largely tone deaf to the world outside the Olympic bubble.

At this point, the probability still leans towards Tokyo proceeding (its scope still open to question) but its no “done… Read more »

Corn Pop
Reply to  M D E
1 year ago

I said There was a 25% approval but That was before the Quarant him A sp o he were cut from 8000 to 4000. Rob was back before Melbourne’s outbreak . Btw he is A Professional who is a top role m o del f o r how zportsppl should go about their business during Covid restrictions.

The AFL is domestic & & except for the 400
hangers on flown into QLD, seems to have gone ok. The bad is that these 400 family & girlfriends & babysitters get to escape Melbourne , sit around thev pool & go to bars
whilst the ADF are deployed away from their families to clean up in Melbourne . Then… Read more »

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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