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Coronavirus: Tokyo Olympic organizers, IOC clash over who pays for postponement

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An open conflict broke out Tuesday between Tokyo Olympic organizers and the IOC over who will pay for the unprecedented year-long postponement.

Tokyo spokesman Masa Takaya said the organizing committee has asked the Switzerland-based International Olympic Committee to remove a comment from its website suggesting that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had agreed that Japan would shoulder most of the postponement costs.

Media reports in Japan estimate the year-long delay caused by the coronavirus pandemic will cost $2 billion to $6 billion. Neither side has given an official estimate, but Tokyo CEO Toshiro Muto has called the postponement costs “massive.”

“It’s not appropriate for the prime minister’s name to be quoted in this manner,” Takaya said on a 90-minute teleconference.

Almost all of the questions, mostly from Japanese reporters, centred on the IOC’s statement and the costs for Japan.

The IOC statement, on a page titled “Frequently Asked Questions about Olympic Games Tokyo 2020,” said Abe had agreed that Japan “will continue to cover the costs it would have done under the terms of the existing agreement for 2020, and the IOC will continue to be responsible for its share of the costs.”

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Without using Abe’s name, IOC President Thomas Bach said almost exactly the same thing 10 days ago in an interview with the German newspaper Die Welt on Sunday.

Abe’s spokesman, Yoshihide Suga, also challenged the IOC and said Tuesday there “is no such agreement related to additional cost stemming from the postponement.”

Despite the conflict, there is not much debate about who will pay; it’s the Japanese side, but it’s also a sensitive subject, particularly for Abe during an economic downturn brought on by the spreading virus.

Japan is officially spending $12.6 billion to organize the Olympics, but a government audit report says it’s at least twice that much.

It’s all public money except for $5.6 billion from a privately funded organizing committee budget.

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