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As Olympic Flame arrives in Japan, IOC considers scenarios for Tokyo Games

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The Olympic Flame landed in Japan on Friday for a 121-day trek leading up to the July 24 Opening Ceremony.

“While we do not know how long the tunnel we are all in at this moment will be, we would like the Olympic Flame to be a light at the end of this tunnel,” IOC president Thomas Bach said.

Bach also repeated his stance that it would not be responsible to set a deadline on an Olympic decision because it would be based on speculation. The IOC has a task force, including the World Health Organization, which said it is too early to make a decision with four months to go

Bach said “of course, we are considering different scenarios” for the Olympics amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to The New York Times.

Bach was asked if the IOC had a group considering what an Olympics would look like if held later this year or in 2021 or 2022. He did not detail any possible scenarios but repeated that cancellation is not on the agenda, according to the report. And that the priority is protecting the health of everyone involved and supporting the containment of the virus.

At a Japanese air base Friday, three-time Olympic gold medalists Saori Yoshida (wrestling) and Tadahiro Nomura (judo) received the Flame at a lighting ceremony.

“For the first time in 56 years, the Olympic torch is heading to Tokyo and I hope that the Olympic torch will illuminate the path of hope for many people,” Tokyo 2020 organizing committee President Yoshiro Mori said at a scaled-down event, according to The Associated Press.

The flame was lit in the Ancient Olympic site of Olympia on March 12 and spent eight days in Greece.

The relay is scheduled to visit all 47 prefectures of Japan with emphasis on the area affected by the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. Around 98 percent of Japan’s population live within one hour by car or train of the route.

With the motto “Hope Lights Our Way,” it will visit the three prefectures most affected by the tsunami and earthquake (Fukushima (March 26-28), Iwate (June 17-19) and Miyagi (June 20-22)) for three days each.

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IOC: Tokyo most prepared Olympic host, but heat a growing worry

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TOKYO (AP) — IOC President Thomas Bach and other International Olympic Committee members are calling Tokyo the best prepared host city in memory.

Still, there are obstacles ahead for the 2020 Games, though small by the standards of the corruption-plagued Rio Olympics.

John Coates, head of an IOC inspection team, wrapped three days of meetings in Tokyo on Wednesday and said the city’s summer heat is a growing worry.

Organizers are proposing to start the marathon between 5:30-6 a.m., and have moved up morning rugby matches by 90 minutes to play in the cooler air. Mountain biking will be contested later in the afternoon for the same reason.

Organizers are also struggling to keep the 600 billion yen (about $5.3 billion) operating budget balanced with heat-related solutions driving up costs.

This is the privately-funded budget for running the Games themselves and separate from billions more that governments are spending to prepare the city.

“The organizing committee and the people of Japan remain on track to deliver spectacular Olympic and Paralympic Games,” Coates said.

Yoshiro Mori, the president of organizing committee, was sitting alongside and was cautious about the plaudits.

“We should not be overconfident about such praise,” he said through an interpreter. “We still should buckle down very firmly … They praise us, they give us a good report card. But in addition to that I want to be better.”

This summer’s scorching Tokyo heat nudged 40 degrees C (104 degrees F) several times and is running up costs and concerns.

Coates said an IOC panel had studied the problem and called this summer “abnormal.”

“It will continue to be at the front of our minds for us and the organizers,” Coates said. “We will do everything possible to insure that they (athletes) are not competing at risk — or watching at risk.”

Coates said organizers are preparing more cooling light-water sprays, reflective pavement for the running courses and more shade for fans.

“It’s those sorts of things,” Coates said. “There’s a list of about 20 precautions they think we should take, and they’re not going to be free.”

Coates said those and other costs were stressing the operating budget. The third version of that budget will be presented Dec. 21.

“My confidence is that there will be a balanced subject, subject to there being nothing massively untoward,” Coates said.

Several months ago, Coates contrasted Tokyo with Rio.

“In Rio we didn’t know who was paying what — if at all,” he said.

Tokyo’s privately funded operating budget of $5.3 billion derives income from the IOC, domestic sponsorship sales, merchandise sales and ticket sales.

The largest chunk of income is from domestic sponsorship sales, which have reached about $3 billion. Coates and Bach said the enthusiasm of Japanese companies had helped smash all records.

Still, Coates said about $100 million more was needed to meet budget requirements.

Coates said he was hopeful “there won’t be any drain on the public purse.”

Despite the wealth of private money, public money is still the backbone of the Tokyo Olympics.

The national government’s Board of Audit spelled out total Olympic costs in a 178-page report published in October. It forecasts total spending to prepare the Olympics at about $20 billion. That includes the private operating budget.

The rest comes from the national government, Tokyo city government and other local governments — meaning about 75 percent of the funding is taxpayer money.

This reality contrasts sharply with Tokyo’s winning bid in 2013, which projected overall Olympics costs of 829 billion yen ($7.3 billion).

Tokyo organizers and the IOC dispute what are — and what are not — Olympic costs. It’s complicated. Some projects might have been built without the Olympics and are not clearly related. Others are driven directly by the requirements of hosting the Games.

Stung by criticism of forcing cities to build white elephant venues, the IOC is saying the upcoming Olympics in Paris (2024) and Los Angeles (2028) will rely heavily on existing venues. The same is true for the two bids for the 2026 Winter Olympics: Stockholm, Sweden, and the Italian bid of Milan-Cortina.

The outlier is the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. The Chinese capital spent at least $40 billion on the 2008 Summer Olympics. Bach and the IOC cautioned China to keep the costs down.

Also, the Tokyo city government said a 51-year-old man died Wednesday after falling from the 12th floor of a building under construction at the athletes village in the bay area of Tokyo. He was Japanese, but his name has not been released.

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Esports has no Olympic future with violence, Thomas Bach says

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JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach isn’t certain if, or when, esports might be incorporated into the Olympic Games.

But he was clear in an interview with The Associated Press at the Asian Games on Saturday about the need to meet some conditions before being considered.

“We cannot have in the Olympic program a game which is promoting violence or discrimination,” he told the AP. “So-called killer games. They, from our point of view, are contradictory to the Olympic values and cannot therefore be accepted.”

Esports is being held for the first time at the Asian Games as a demonstration sport, and could be a full-medal event in four years in Hangzhou, China.

Could the Olympics be next?

The IOC has been mulling over many of these questions since holding an esports forum in July at IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Bach still needs convincing. He won an Olympic gold medal in fencing, which uses swords, and tried to draw a distinction.

“Of course every combat sport has its origins in a real fight among people,” he said. “But sport is the civilized expression about this. If you have egames where it’s about killing somebody, this cannot be brought into line with our Olympic values.”

Asian Games organizers several days ago expressed sympathy for victims of the deadly shooting at a video games tournament in a Florida shopping mall.

They faulted U.S. gun laws, not esports.

“But I think this is a bigger issue of gun control and access to guns,” said Kenneth Fok, president of the Asian Electronic Sports Federation, following the shooting.

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