SYDNEY (Reuters) – Senior international Olympics official John Coates said on Saturday the delayed Tokyo Olympics could end up being the greatest Games ever, coming next year as the world emerges from COVID-19 crisis.
Coates, Australia’s Olympic chief and head of the International Olympic Committee’s inspectorate for the Games, cited the examples of positive Summer Games that followed the two world wars of the 20th century.
The Tokyo Games were postponed for a year to 2021 in the aftermath of the new coronavirus outbreak.
Coates said he thought Tokyo could surpass even the reputation of the 2000 Sydney Games, which he helped organise and were described by then IOC chief Juan Antonio Samaranch as “the best Olympic Games ever”.
“Because we all must wait longer than the already-long wait for an Olympics, the Games of Tokyo will gently but perceptibly echo the sheer joy and relief of the other delayed Olympics of Antwerp in 1920 and London in 1948,” he told the annual general meeting of the Australian Olympic Committee.
“I believe the Tokyo Olympics may ultimately be amongst the greatest Games ever, if not the greatest. And putting the parochialism of a proud Sydney boy aside … I certainly hope Tokyo will be.”
Turning to future “opportunity”, Coates told the meeting, which was held online, that the proposal for Australia to host the Summer Olympics for the third time in 2032 was gathering pace.
The bid, centred on South East Queensland around Brisbane, had been given the official backing of the AOC in January, he said, and was now in the phase of “continuous dialogue” with the IOC’s Future Host Commission.
Planning for venues, mostly already existing or temporary, and the siting of athletes villages were progressing and the necessary buy-in of local, state and national government was largely in place.
Coates, who ran a failed bid to host the Games in Brisbane in 1992, said an Olympics could provide an economic catalyst to help Queensland and Australia out of the expected post-coronavirus recession.
“I have always believed in making necessity a virtue. There is already a need for jobs and growth in the Queensland economy arising from the impact of COVID-19,” he told his online audience.
“Our (government partners) recognise a potential 2032 … Games as a critical part of the state and nation’s economic recovery in the short term, quite apart from all of the long-term health, well-being, economic and sporting legacies.”
A decision over which city or region would host the 2032 Olympics could be made as early as 2022, he added. Bids from India, Indonesia and a joint proposal from North and South Korea have also been mooted.
Coates, who has been president of the AOC since 1990, also said he was confident the body was financially in “good order” to come through “this time of some chaos” after a raft of cost-cutting measures.
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenny; Editing by William Mallard)