Still, with billions of dollars at stake, there’s little chance they’ll be canceled a second year in a row, according to Irwin Kishner, co-chair of the Sports Law Group with Herrick, Feinstein LLP.
“Based on everything that I understand and see right now, I would find it hard to believe (canceling) would even be a remote possibility at this moment,” Kishner, who has led 11 major sports stadium deals, told Yahoo Finance Live on Monday.
Tokyo, where many citizens have opposed hosting the Olympics, still has a significant vested interest in hosting the games. Japan announced a $15.9 billion budget for the games in December, with the majority of that cost falling on the government. Though the return on investment likely won’t come from in-person ticket sales, drawing attention to the country as a whole has long been seen as a benefit of hosting the world’s largest sporting event. Kishner doesn’t believe that appeal will be lost amid the pandemic.
“The most valuable programming of all is sports programming,” Kishner said. “It’s live action. It garners the most interest. And the Olympics are at the top of that proverbial pyramid.”
While the fear of a billion-dollar fallout will likely push the games forward, health concerns regarding COVID-19 still linger. Dr. Suzanne Judd, an epidemiologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health, believes the Olympics can happen without causing a worldwide increased infection rate. Like many major events amid the re-opening process, the safety of the Olympics hinges on vaccinations.
“As long as we have a relatively decent level of vaccination for people attending the event, it shouldn’t be a super spreader event,” Judd told Yahoo Finance Live on May 28. “It’s very different to have some level of immunity in the population versus what we had last year when nobody had immunity.”
The concern would be if vaccination rates of people in attendance are “low,” which she defined as fewer than 40% or 50% people being vaccinated. If about 70% of the people involved were vaccinated there’d likely be few cases leaving the Olympics at all, Judd said. The International Olympic Committee announced in November athletes wouldn’t be forced to get vaccinated, leaving it up to the individual athletes of the 205 participating countries to decide on vaccinations.
Based on Judd’s assessment, vaccine distribution will be the key metric to follow in the six weeks leading up to the opening ceremonies. For his part, Kishner remains optimistic that the games will be a success, even if fewer people see them in person.
“Even if there’s lack of attendance, even if they are not getting as much ticket revenue as maybe that was anticipated, I do believe these games are going to go off well,” Kishner said. “I do believe they’re going to go off COVID safe or friendly, as much as you can do that. And I ultimately predict a successful 2021 Olympic games.”
Josh Schafer is a producer for Yahoo Finance.