Athletes the focus of the Tok... | Australian Olympic Committee

Athletes the focus of the Tokyo 2020 Games in 2021

Author imageAOC02 Jul 2020
John Coates smiling - ANOC

AOC President and Chair of the Coordination Commission for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, John Coates AC, is featured in the latest newsletter from the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC). In this article he talks about the ongoing planning for the Games next year and the key priority of ensuring the athlete experience remains the key focus for all. 

With the IOC and Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee announcing in June that the Games would be simplified to ensure the safety of participants and reduce the financial impact of the one-year delay, ANOC spoke with the chair of the Tokyo 2020 Coordination Commission John Coates to understand the implications for NOCs.

What advice would you give NOCs on preparing for Tokyo 2020?

As we begin to step up preparations for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, let’s use this time to encourage unity and creativity in order to emerge from this pandemic even stronger. Despite the current difficulties, we must ensure that the focus of our efforts remain on the athletes.

NOCs have a responsibility to provide the necessary tools for athletes to prepare and in this ‘new normal’, we will all need to re-evaluate our activities and make necessary adjustments to optimise our strategies. This is very much evident in the re-planning process for the Tokyo 2020 Games.

Our aim is to reduce the cost impact of postponement and promote public interest, reflecting the new global economic, societal and public health contexts but without affecting sport and the athletes’ experience.

We’ve been looking at ways to simplify and reduce the complexity of the Games to ensure they can be organised efficiently, safely and sustainably in this new environment. To deliver this effectively, we need the continued support of the NOCs to ensure that their experience is leveraged to find creative solutions to simplify Games delivery.

In return, NOCs should use this exercise as inspiration to develop and adjust their own plans to maximise efficiencies in their Games’ operations.

These efforts can be aided by Olympic Solidarity, which has increased its budget for the IOC’s Subsidies for the Participation of the NOCs in the Olympic Games, from USD 46.7m to USD 57m and has extended its athlete support programmes focused on Tokyo 2020.

This additional funding relating to exceptional Games-related costs incurred by NOCs due to the postponement of the Tokyo Games allows the NOCs to sustain additional costs that might occur in the continually evolving environment in the lead-up to the Tokyo Games.


Change will indeed remain a continual challenge for all delivery partners, however NOCs can rest assured that Tokyo 2020 is working tirelessly to ensure NOC delegations are warmly welcomed to Japan next summer for what is set to be a historic occasion.

What impact will the simplification of Tokyo 2020 have on NOCs and their athletes?

First and foremost, athletes are and always will remain the focal point of the Olympic Games. This is why the IOC and Tokyo 2020 have been conducting meetings with the NOCs to listen to them and better understand their needs.

Giving them the best stage to perform is paramount to the Tokyo Games success. In regards to cost minimisation and simplification, the principles recently published by Tokyo 2020 include the phrases “while prioritising sport and athletes” and “maintaining the fundamentals of sport”. That is why, in principle, the athletes experience and the field of play at all venues will remain unaffected by the optimisation efforts we are taking to simplify the Tokyo 2020 Games.

That said, extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary measures. This situation requires every one of us to do our part. It will need all our solidarity, creativity, determination and flexibility as we make the right decisions to hold a successful and safe Games next year.

Whilst NOCs and athletes may notice some subtle differences to previous Games, what is exciting is that Tokyo 2020 will be a blueprint for future host cities.

These Games will bring to life the recommendations of Olympic Agenda 2020 and the New Norm, putting into practice measures we’re taking to make the Olympic Games more sustainable, flexible, easier to operate and less expensive, while also unlocking more value for host cities over the long term.

Acknowledging the significant support from our hosts and having been directly involved in the extensive re-planning work being undertaken by all stakeholders, I can assure you that the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 will be a truly memorable moment for everyone involved after going through the current global crisis.

How important will the next few months be in the preparations for Tokyo 2020?

The next few months will be hugely important not only for Tokyo 2020 but for humanity as the COVID-19 pandemic develops. This crisis is very different - no individual, no government, no nation can solve it on their own. It will require human excellence, experience and creativity, which will require more solidarity and international cooperation, assets that NOCs will need to draw upon over the coming months. What the postponement of the Games has provided however is time - time to allow us to gain experience from the best practices for managing the virus.

This will be crucial to our goal of delivering a safe and healthy environment for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. That is why the close collaboration in the All Partner Task Force between the Japanese Government, Tokyo Metropolitan Government, Tokyo 2020, the World Health Organisation, the IPC and the IOC has been so important.

Together we have seen signs of hope, with the resumption of many domestic sports events and larger numbers of spectators being allowed to return in some countries, including Japan, within the coming weeks. International competitions are due to return in early Autumn which will provide further examples of how such events are being managed in the current context. All of this will be crucial to our re-planning efforts as we focus on the delivery of the Games next summer.

What role do you think Tokyo 2020 will play in bringing the world back together after this dark period?

It presents us with a unique opportunity to turn the celebration of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 into a festival of unity for humankind, and a symbol of human resilience to overcome this devastating crisis. These Olympic Games will be a powerful signal of hope for the world during these unprecedented times. The Olympic flame will be the light at the end of this dark tunnel that we find ourselves in.