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Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic games - statistics & facts

Following the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games were postponed by one year. The Olympics were held from July 23 to August 8, 2021, while the Paralympics were staged two weeks later from August 24 to September 5. This marked the first time in the era of modern Olympics that the Games had been postponed during peacetime, but the second time the Games could not be hosted by Tokyo as originally planned, the first time being in 1940. Before its hosting, large portions of the population were apprehensive regarding the staging of the Games, expressing concerns over an increased spread of the COVID-19 virus. At the time of the Games, most of the prefectures that hosted events, including Tokyo, were in the middle of a COVID-19-triggered state of emergency. The Games were held regardless, with the organizing committee deciding to host the Olympics as well as the Paralympics with almost no spectators.

Hosting the Games: a high-risk, high-reward enterprise

Modern Olympics have grown in various aspects including athlete participation, contested sports disciplines, and spectator numbers. The Games have turned into a mammoth event, necessitating astronomical amounts of expenses from organizing entities. The Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics were no exception to this trend. There are various reasons for hosting the Games, including the (envisioned) financial and reputational boost for the host city and country. Furthermore, the host city preparation for the Games typically involves investments in a broad variety of areas, including in infrastructural projects such as transportation systems, architectural masterpieces, and technological modernization. The benefits reaped by hosting the Games are often intangible and hence difficult to quantify. Tokyo committed itself to this high-risk high-reward investment in 2013 when it won the bidding to become the host city in 2020. It was an attempt to repeat the positive economic and technological ripple effect the Tokyo 1964 Olympic Games had on Japan. For the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, organizers originally anticipated a positive economic ripple effect during the decade following the Games that would be multiple times higher than the original investment.

Increasing expenses and the COVID-19 dilemma

Despite the low support of the local population and mounting national and international criticism questioning the wisdom of hosting an international mega event during an unprecedented global pandemic, the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics are now part of history. With the decision to virtually host the Games without spectators, the revenue that was expected from event ticket sales and expenditure generated from tourism dissipated. This resulted in a further reduction of revenue for what was dubbed by media outlets as the most expensive Summer Olympic Games ever to be hosted. The cost of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games had already increased compared to the originally planned budget even before the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic. The initially planned 740 billion Japanese yen more than doubled, surpassing 1.6 trillion yen by the fifth version of the Tokyo 2020 budget released in December 2020. The COVID-19-induced postponement of the Games further increased expenditure by involved entities. Despite the attempts by the organizing committee to cut costs by simplifying the Games, the final bill is likely to surpass hitherto suggested figures, leaving a large gap between the planned revenue and the planned expenditure for the Games.


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