Tokyo ceremony must include coronavirus reference, says producer


ATHENS (Reuters) – The Tokyo 2020 Olympics must acknowledge the coronavirus crisis which forced their postponement and incorporate it into next year’s opening ceremony, executive producer Marco Balich said.

Balich, an Italian with great experience in producing Olympic opening and closing ceremonies, said the Japanese had almost completed preparations for this year.

The virus, however, put a stop to the Games and Balich’s international team are returning from Japan.

“I think for sure the Olympic ceremony which is a window of all humanity will have to reflect somehow or reference somehow what has happened,” Balich told Reuters in a phone interview from his home in Milan.

Balich has been confined to his house for the past three weeks with the virus having killed more than 10,000 people in his country and Italy in national lockdown. More than 34,000 have died worldwide.

“We already had prototypes and started rehearsals. We were in very good shape,” Balich said, adding he was grateful the Games were postponed.

“I think given this difficult decision, what our ceremonies team can now do is refresh and have a unique opportunity to rethink and use them to make them the biggest celebration with Olympic values.”

The International Olympic Committee decided last week to delay the Games, which had been scheduled to begin in July amid growing pressure from athletes and teams, to 2021.

“To give a full year postponement… would be the right sort of time to cure our wounds and restart the work,” Balich said.

New dates for the Games are expected to be announced this week.

It is the first postponement in the 124-year history of the modern Olympics, although several – including the 1940 Tokyo Games – were canceled due to war.

“The message we have been sharing… is let’s make the biggest celebration ever. Staging the Olympics will be the pinnacle, the restart for this new, strong world. It is a unique opportunity to have an extra 12 months to acknowledge what has happened and use the Olympics as the tool for the renaissance of the planet,” Balich said.

The Games traditionally have an opening and closing ceremony.

“The creative team will have to acknowledge what has happened. In this beautiful Japanese aesthetic… they will address some kind of a message for this new way of living we all have to confront,” he said.

“I think that the effort that the creative team (in Japan) will have to face is how to translate this very harsh moment.”

Reporting by Karolos Grohmann, editing by Ed Osmond