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Coronavirus and Event Cancellation

March 13, 2020

It is increasingly likely that the Olympic games in Tokyo will fall victim to the coronavirus, in what would almost certainly be the biggest event contingency loss ever. The economic losses will run into the tens or perhaps even hundreds of billions, with the potential cancellation of the Olympics estimated to cost the Japanese economy 0.8 percentage points of GDP, according to Nomura — and that is before calculating the cost to overseas broadcasters and their advertisers, not to mention Japan’s estimated US$13 billion investment in infrastructure. The International Olympic Committee usually has a policy cover for around US$800 million.

Many other high-profile events have already been scrapped, including the opening of Grand Prix in Melbourne this Sunday, NBA basketball in the US, Tennis Pro Tour. The governing body of European football is also considering postponing Euro 2020, which is due to take place across 12 countries during June and July.

The bad news for most businesses affected by such cancellations is that insurers are unlikely to shoulder the losses as the standard wording does not cover pandemics. Such policies generally exclude coverage for an outbreak of communicable disease which leads to an event being disrupted.

While events that are cancelled due to government mandate can get covered if communicable diseases are included in the policy, voluntary shutdowns such as the Melbourne Grand Prix are not and will likely give rise to more disputes.

The events calendar for 2020 could be a write-off — and an uninsured one at that.

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