So John Coates says the Tokyo 2020 Olympics are going ahead with or without Covid-19 . That is a pretty bold statement as global coronavirus cases hit 27 million on Monday with no end in sight. Then again, what else can the IOC’s recently elected vice-president say? The Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games going ahead next year after being delayed for 12 months is vital to the organisers, who have extended sponsorship and broadcast agreements. The IOC also knows next summer is the last chance saloon, as Australian Coates told News Corp staff at a May round table. “The games can only happen in 2021. We can’t postpone it again and we have to assume that there won’t be a vaccine or, if there is a vaccine, it won’t be sufficient to share around the world,” Coates said in comments that were reproduced in The Australian newspaper. It is widely accepted that it is 2021 or bust for Tokyo 2020, with all the money invested by the Japanese government and the IOC’s mega deals at risk of going down the drain, along with a generation’s Olympic dreams. “You want to make sure that a generation of athletes aren’t going to miss their Games,” Coates said earlier this summer. That, again, is a fair view for the Olympics to take, but not at all costs. But the IOC and the Tokyo organising committee will have to weigh up over the next six months whether they can press on or admit that the dream is over. Now is not the time for that decision to be made. Japan currently blocks the nationals of 159 countries from entering its borders and anyone who has travelled to Japan from them. Quarantine is in place, too. The plan is for 10,000 athletes from 206 countries to descend on Japan next summer. IOC president Thomas Bach is perhaps the only man who wants the Games to go ahead more than Coates, but even he admitted in July, with the 12-month countdown to 2021’s rescheduled start date looming, that there will have to be concessions for Tokyo 2020 to go ahead next summer. That could mean no fans, despite the IOC’s hopes. “This is, of course, one of the scenarios we have to look into because this has to do with travel restrictions and quarantine and it’s too early to tell,” Bach said. Tokyo 2020 – a timeline of the ‘cursed’ Olympics “We would like to see stadiums full of enthusiastic fans to give them all the opportunity to live the Olympic experience, support the athletes, and this is what we are working for. “We cannot address the details yet. There cannot be a solution today, this is asking too much.” So can there be a solution, or at least a decision, that it is going ahead no matter what just six weeks later? As big as the IOC fears that a generation will miss out, and they will miss out on 2020 Games income, the consequences of going ahead regardless is more than throwing caution to the wind. It can’t be certain. The Olympics is a potential catastrophe during a global pandemic, made worse by the fact it is totally avoidable. Coates, writing in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph a day after the one-year countdown began, said the Games needed to be simple and safe, while cutting costs. “With one year to go, there is no clear picture of what shape the simplified Games will take. The situation with Covid-19, both domestically and internationally, is constantly changing.” Too big to fail? Tokyo 2020 is too big to succeed in 2021 Has it changed that much since to allow for his new stance? Coates had been happy to plead caution in past months. “Yes, we want the athletes of the world to have their Olympic moment of competition, just as they would have dreamt. But critically, they must experience that moment in an environment where their health and safety ... is assured.” An eight-year gap between Games would be unheralded outside of war but this pandemic is a situation we have not seen in a century, and one where an Olympics would be the “light at the end of a tunnel”, if we are out of that tunnel. “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,” Coates said in online Australian Olympic Committee meeting reported by Reuters in May. He will be proved right but only if the world is ready for the Olympics and there are mixed views on whether that will be the case without a vaccine. “I believe the Tokyo Olympics may ultimately be amongst the greatest Games ever, if not the greatest,” Coates added. ‘Hope and uncertainty’ over Covid-19 delayed Olympics: Tokyo governor “And putting the parochialism of a proud Sydney boy aside,” Coates, an organiser of those 2000 Games, said, “I certainly hope Tokyo will be.” We all do but for now it needs to be hope rather than expectation – the “coming Covid-19 or not” message is irresponsible.