Mike Rowbottom ©ITG

One of the reasons cited for not holding the Glastonbury Festival in 2012 was a very basic one. London 2012 organisers had already nabbed all the portaloos that could be had for their own visitors that summer.

This audacious move by the London 2012 chief executive, Paul Deighton, was in no way an attempt to undermine live music events in the United Kingdom. It was simply one expression of the extraordinary range of mundane necessities vital for the successful staging of an Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Planning for the Olympics is mind-boggling. That’s why there is a seven-year gap between the winning of a bid and the delivery of a Games. So for the shell-shocked members of the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee, the question of how to accommodate a Games now postponed to a starting date of July 23, 2021 is uniquely challenging.

The taskforce formed last week to deal with the mind-boggling question of re-setting the Tokyo Games was called Here We Go. A misnomer, surely. It should have been Here We Go Again…

Soon after delivering the formal request for postponement to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on behalf of his own International Federation, World Athletics President Sebastian Coe, who was President of the Organising Committee for London 2012, told CNN: "If I had an hour to spare with you and you had the space to fill, I don't think I could even begin to get across the enormity of this project.

"There is no project management that is more challenging in the life of any city, or any country, under normal circumstances than the delivery of the Games."

The London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony was the culmination of seven years of work by the Organising Committee - now Tokyo 2020 organisers have to run an extra lap to hold their Games ©Getty Images
The London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony was the culmination of seven years of work by the Organising Committee - now Tokyo 2020 organisers have to run an extra lap to hold their Games ©Getty Images

In the wake of the decision last Tuesday (March 30)  to postpone, the IOC President, Thomas Bach, has expressed the challenge as a "huge jigsaw puzzle and every piece has to fit", warning that "sacrifices and compromises" would need to be made by all stakeholders to ensure the success of Tokyo 2020.

"If you take out one piece, the whole puzzle is destroyed," he added.

During Coe’s Friday (March 27) teleconference to African and European media I asked him what he would regard as the most pressing issues now facing the leaders of the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee.

"There is a myriad of considerations to take on board," he replied. "Whether it’s about mothballing venues, whether it’s about the sales of some of those venues - the anchor tenants that have been agreed, which good Organising Committees tend to have in place for that.

"And the very nature of the Athletes' Village, being put back into consumption, whether commercially or publicly. Those are all the things that they will be dealing with now, along with broadcasts, broadcast rights, sponsorships…

"But there is one thing I hope people recognise, which is that by the time you get to the end of that seven-year journey your teams are running on empty. And that includes the President right the way down through the organisation.

"So I am hoping there is recognition that there is exhaustion suffused with massive disappointment that this decision had to be taken.

"It was the right decision - nobody is questioning it - but if I was head of the Organising Committee in these sort of circumstances I would be wanting to take away some of the exhaustion on behalf of my team before they re-gathered for yet another year of delivery.

"I think that would be uppermost in my concern at the moment - just managing the disappointment and the exhaustion, all coming together in what could be a perfect storm.

"I’m sure the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee will be thinking about that. It’s just the sheer weight of effort that goes into getting the point of being within 100 or so days before a Games."

London 2012 Organising Committee President Sebastian Coe, pictured left with Chief Executive Paul Deighton, has spoken in his current capacity as World Athletics President of the
London 2012 Organising Committee President Sebastian Coe, pictured left with Chief Executive Paul Deighton, has spoken in his current capacity as World Athletics President of the "perfect storm" of exhaustion and disappointment that Tokyo 2020 organisers may be facing in the wake of the Games postponement ©Getty Images

Another highly experienced operator in the field of organising international multi-event championships concurred with Coe’s assertion that the human-resources challenge would be significant for Tokyo organisers.

"You have a staff of between 9,000 to 10,000 people all focused on the Games," he told insidethegames

"Most of them will already have arranged to move to another job after the Games are over. So how are you going to sort that out? Are they going to have to say to their prospective employers - ‘Sorry, I can’t take up that job now’?

"Are you going to be looking at paying for a whole year’s extra salary for 10,000 people?

"Then you have to look at the contractors. You could have 150,000 of them ready to do sport information, sport presentation, security, cleaning... they will all have been tied to a rate for this July and August.

"You’ve got to hope you can call them all back in a year’s time. Can they all do that? And will they all work for the same agreed rate next year?

"If you look at ticket sales - you’re probably looking at the sale of around seven to eight million. How can you be sure they can be valid for July next year? That is a long time for people to put their plans on hold.

"Every Games has venue-use agreements, where commercial venues guarantee they will be capable of holding events such as gymnastics, boxing, volleyball, taekwondo…

"If you are expecting to transfer that usage to the same time the following year - you have no guarantee the venue will be free. It could be booked up with a concert or another event, at a commercial rate.

"If you are a private owner you have no obligation to the Olympics. You might have agreed, through a love of your country, to make your venue available at a certain time at a certain rate.

"Then you look at the situation with hotel rooms. These are very expensive in Tokyo anyway - you’re looking typically at $650 (£525/€590) a night, three times what you might pay in London. That figure will have been agreed and frozen in advance of the Games.

"But if you then say to hotel owners - 'sorry, it needs to be 2021' - there is nothing to stop them saying 'all bets are off.'"

Tokyo should have sufficient capacity in terms of hotel rooms to re-organise accommodation for next year - although the Government may need to lean on some owners ©Getty Images
Tokyo should have sufficient capacity in terms of hotel rooms to re-organise accommodation for next year - although the Government may need to lean on some owners ©Getty Images

Regarding availability, however, the owner of a leading sports travel firm with more than 30 years of experience of organising trips to Olympic Games sounded an optimistic note.

He told insidethegames that he had been assured by a member of the Tokyo Tourist Board at the World Travel Show in 2018 that Japan’s capital would have "more than enough" hotel rooms for the Games.

"I think there is a good chance that 80 to 90 per cent of those rooms will be available again a year from now," he said. "And I think, it being Japan, that if the Government requires other rooms to be freed up, they will be.

"When the Games were held in Athens, or Rio, there was much less wriggle room. The Olympics usually require around 25,000 to 30,000 hotel rooms, and that is roughly the capacity of those two cities.

"But Tokyo and London have a far greater capacity, around 120,000 rooms.

"The strange thing about London 2012 was that some central London hotels were half empty. They had made the mistake of putting up their prices too high, hoping for a late surge of demand.

"But most of the deals are done 15 months before the Games. And what happened in London was you had a doughnut effect, with people staying around the perimeter of the city in travel lodges which were close to Tube lines or bus routes."

The position over the last week regarding ticket sales is expressed by the statement currently on the website of Team GB Live, Team GB’s official travel company.

"At this moment in time we are waiting for an update from Japan on a number of points including the date of the rescheduled Games.

"We understand that this postponement is very disappointing, but is undoubtedly in the very best interests of the safety, health and wellbeing of Olympic athletes and supporters. We would still very much like to see you in Japan supporting Team GB and as soon as we have further information we will update this site.

"We sincerely hope that you decide to travel with Team GB Live for the Olympic Games in Tokyo and thank you for your patience and understanding at this time."

Laszlo Vajda is currently in Beijing where he has been working for the last two months as a senior expert preparing for the 2022 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games. With a brief that includes Games services, the Olympic Village and international relations - the same one he had at the Beijing 2008 Summer Games - he is well-versed in the numerous manifold details of organising a Games.

It is fair to say that the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee has his sympathy and understanding right now.

"I think it is going to be the procurement that is going to be very tricky," Vajda, who also worked on the organisation of the Athens 2004, told insidethegames

"The Olympic Games involves a huge amount of relationships with suppliers of a huge amount of small but necessary items.

"At the end of every Games the organisers arrange either to give things to charity or to hold an effective garage sale of items.

"For instance, in the Olympic Village a huge amount of things have to be procured - bedding, beds, bedside tables, lamps and other furniture. And there will be a huge number of similar items going into 40-odd venues and the Media Villages.

"Knowing the Japanese and the way they plan, and the detail they go into, I am quite certain that they would already have solid plans for asset disposal.

"So for them the question will be - do we sell them again now and try to procure them a year later, or do we store them? In which case we need to find somewhere secure and suitable.

"Another key area of complexity now will involve the venues, which will all have had venue clothing - Games-related banners and decoration - manufactured in a bespoke way.

"I don’t think Tokyo is changing the look of the clothing now that the postponement has happened - they will be retaining the feel and colours already established to evoke the Games, they will be using the same mascots.

"But again, they might have started to manufacture them. And then the question will be how to preserve them, to store them. And if they have to change venues then the clothing will need to be changed and customised to fit the new ones.

"So then they need to find potentially the same manufacturer to maintain consistency, who will be ready for the new demands. The timing of the production needs to be synchronised.

"And then they somehow need to get rid of the redundant items. So I think the look of the Games would definitely provide a lot of questions where the postponement would make itself felt very strongly on the ground.

"There may be other considerations involved in terms of the uniform. There will be a total of around 250,000 people needing uniform for the Games - volunteers, staff and other stakeholders.

"In the space of the year, it may be that people who have already been fitted will need uniforms of a different size. I think they have a little bit of a funny obligation to stay fit and sporty so they don’t change size!

"While foodstuff for the Athletes' and Media Villages and other venues will probably not have been procured yet, there may be a number of temporary kitchens already installed in the venues which will now be redundant.

"Typically this kind of equipment is leased - so again, organisers have to decide, do we leave it in place for a year, or store them all somewhere? Or return them and start again next year? It will be a matter for careful cost analysis."

Tokyo 2020 President Yoshirō Mori today announced a series of measures being put in place to facilitate the re-staging of the Games ©Getty Images
Tokyo 2020 President Yoshirō Mori today announced a series of measures being put in place to facilitate the re-staging of the Games ©Getty Images

Today, Tokyo 2020 President Yoshirō Mori mentioned ticketing arrangements in announcing a series of measures now being put in place to facilitate the re-staging of the Games.

"In principle we will work on measures to ensure that purchased tickets will be valid for the corresponding rescheduled events," Mori said.

"Once the new dates are set, upon request we plan to issue refunds in respect of the face value of tickets for ticket-holders who will find it difficult or impossible to attend events because of the change of dates or venues.

"We will suspend plans to deliver tickets from May 2020 onwards. We will suspend the spring ticket sales programme that was scheduled from April 2020. We are currently considering how to handle the numbered ticket postcard lottery and will announce this in due course."

Mori adds that the Games volunteers, all of whom were confirmed at the start of March, are being asked to participate next year "on the basis that they will have the same roles and venues as currently allocated. As soon as the new dates and venues are confirmed, we will re-confirm the volunteers’ participation as quickly as possible."

Meanwhile, all 18 test events scheduled to take place from April are postponed, pending review, and consideration is also being given to how Torchbearers due to take part in the postponed Olympic Torch Relay can have priority next year.

He also confirmed the Games would continue to be known as Tokyo 2020, adding: "This will enable all official merchandise, torches, emblems, mascot characters, etcetera, to be used going forward."

On the subject of procurement, Mori said this would be "minimised or suspended", adding: "We will ask for suspension of the fulfilment of existing contracts, and when new plans for the Games have been confirmed, we will consult with the relevant business operators and implement all necessary changes."

According to the Nikkei, the Japanese business paper, organisers estimate it will cost an extra $2.7 billion (£2.2 billion/€2.4 billiion), taking into account venue rentals, re-booking hotels and additional payments for staff and security guards.

The paper added, however, that those costs could come down depending on the outcome of negotiations.

That overall figure puzzles Michael Payne, who has been involved in Olympic marketing since Los Angeles 1984 and served as IOC marketing director from 1989 to 2004, since when he has brokered numerous key Olympic sponsorship deals from the other side of the fence.

Payne’s take on the huge estimate of costs to shift the Games is that it "may also be setting up for a negotiation with the Government for their contribution."

He added: "If you look at the financial structures, all the heavy lifting, all the capital infrastructure - they’ve already done that work. Everything is already built now.

"The Organising Committee have put all their big spending items - they have either already spent it, or, like the technology or food for the Athletes' Village, it is not yet spent but already budgeted for.

"All the ticketing systems and process - all that’s done. The ceremonies - that is all in the works. You are not going to go and spend it again.

"So I’m not sure how you would suddenly get to billions."

Payne points towards a tendency that occurs during any Olympics where the budgeting is often employed to upgrade facilities for the general good that are not specifically Games-orientated.

"You can end up with a mammoth Olympic budget which, if you really go and look at it, is a lot more than just for the 17 days."

Addressing the most pressing issues now facing the Tokyo organisers, Payne commented: "I would say the next three-to-four months are going to be particularly heavy lifting because you have got to go and re-do all your venue agreements.

"But it being Japan, and the Government, it should be easier to manage than it might be in some other countries.

"On the question of the venues, I think you can put it into three buckets. One is the Athletes' Village. And as I understand it that is not quite as complicated as it might have been.

"It’s private developers selling to private developers. And I was told by Kyodo News service that they have only sold 10 per cent of the apartments, they have stopped sales, and even those 10 per cent were only due to be delivered to the inhabitants in 2023.

"That’s a long window for the re-fit. Has it got to slip a few months? Possibly. But if you have the Games and Paralympic Games in the summer of 2021 you have got 18 months before your delivery.

"Secondly you have got all the sports venues which it is probably not going to be too problematic to make available again.

"And the third one which will be slightly more complicated is the Convention Centre where they have got the Main Press Centre and the International Broadcasting Centre. That will be booked out for other things and they are going to have to get moved.

"But there is no problem that is insurmountable."