Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Tokyo Olympics are still going forward. After being postponed from 2020, the opening day is set for July 23 despite a general feeling of unease. Only 4% of Japanese citizens have been vaccinated at this point in time, and according to a new survey, 87% of those polled do not want the Olympics to occur this year, especially with people coming in from 200 countries worldwide during a time when travel is discouraged. Many medical organizations have supported deferment for another year, but the International Olympic Committee is adamant about going forward with the current plan.
Bob Costas, who was a host for 12 Olympic Games telecasts from 1988 to 2016 before leaving NBC in 2019, was a guest on Real Time with Bill Maher and he also voiced opposition for continuing with the Games this summer, saying that the Olympics should be "postponed, not canceled. If they postponed it until the summer of 2022, then as a one-off it would go back to the way it was prior to the ’90s." The winter and summer Games used to take place during the same year before switching to the every two years alternating schedule.
"You’ve got to understand, the International Olympic Committee holds all the cards," Costas explained. Maher pointed out that he often sees the IOC connected to "something shady" and asked Costas if that was the right impression to have of the organization. "It’s not wrong," Costas replied. "They have an affinity for authoritarian regimes. They’ll be back in Beijing for the Winter Olympics. They were in Sochi (Russia) in 2014. They were in Beijing in 2008." NBCUniversal signed an extension in 2014 for $7.75 billion for the U.S. rights to Olympic coverage through 2032, and Costas also explained that the locations of the Olympic Games made "a particularly difficult tightrope walk for NBC."
Like most things, it all comes down to money. "Unlike other entities that cover it, the network that carries the Olympics or any sports event has invested a lot of money in the rights," Costas told Maher. "And they want people to feel good about watching it. But my feeling always was, you have to at least acknowledge the elephants in the room. I tried as best I could to tug on the other end of that rope. But they were always very very touchy about offending the IOC."
So despite all of the opposition to this particular Games, "all of the contracts are written in favor of the IOC," Costas said. "So, if the Olympics are held, all the losses, all the cost overruns, they fall on the Olympic organizing committee of Tokyo. None of that is borne by the IOC. Plus, if the Games take place and NBC televises them, the IOC collects every last penny of the broadcast rights. So you can’t expect them to have the same view as everyone else."