The Tokyo Olympics, postponed last week due to the coronavirus pandemic, is now set be held from July 23 to August 8 in 2021, the International Olympic Committee confirmed on Monday. The Paralympic Games have been rescheduled for August 24 to September 5.
The Summer Olympic Games were originally scheduled to take place from July 24 to August 9 this year in the Japanese capital but were postponed due to the coronavirus. The spread of the virus forced the International Olympic Committee to take the historic decision to postpone the Games until next year.
The new dates were agreed upon on Monday between the International Olympic Committee and local organisers.
“These new dates give the health authorities and all involved in the organisation of the Games the maximum time to deal with the constantly changing landscape and the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic,” a statement by IOC said.
The IOC confirmed that all athletes already qualified and quota places already assigned for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 will remain unchanged. The Games will continue to be referred as Tokyo 2020.
“The new dates, exactly one year after those originally planned for 2020 (Olympic Games: 24 July to 9 August 2020 and Paralympic Games: 25 August to 6 September 2020), also have the added benefit that any disruption that the postponement will cause to the international sports calendar can be kept to a minimum, in the interests of the athletes and the IFs [international federations],” the statement added. “Additionally, they will provide sufficient time to finish the qualification process. The same heat mitigation measures as planned for 2020 will be implemented.”
IOC President Thomas Bach reiterated his belief that the Tokyo Games will be the light at the end of the tunnel the world finds itself in due to the virus.
“I want to thank the International Federations for their unanimous support and the Continental Associations of National Olympic Committees for the great partnership and their support in the consultation process over the last few days,” Bach said.
“I would also like to thank the IOC Athletes’ Commission, with whom we have been in constant contact. With this announcement, I am confident that, working together with the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, the Japanese Government and all our stakeholders, we can master this unprecedented challenge. Humankind currently finds itself in a dark tunnel. These Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 can be a light at the end of this tunnel,” he added.
Tokyo 2020 chief Yoshiro Mori had earlier told reporters they were weighing the pros and cons of a summer and spring Games and he expected a decision from the International Olympic Committee soon.
The Tokyo 2020 Olympics were due to open on July 24 and run for 16 days, but the coronavirus pandemic forced the first peace-time postponement of the Games. The IOC and Japan had for weeks insisted the show could go on but the rapid spread of Covid-19 prompted growing disquiet among athletes and sporting federations.
The Olympics was the highest-profile sporting casualty of the coronavirus that has wiped out fixtures worldwide and all but halted professional sport.
“A certain amount of time is required for the selection and qualification of athletes and for their training and preparation, and the consensus was that staging the rescheduled Games during the summer vacation in Japan would be preferable,” Mori said in the statement issued by IOC.
“In terms of transport, arranging volunteers and the provision of tickets for those in Japan and overseas, as well as allowing for the Covid-19 situation, we think that it would be better to reschedule the Games to one year later than planned, in the summer of 2021.”
There was some speculation that Japanese organisers could take advantage of the blank canvas to shift the Games to spring, avoiding the heat of the Tokyo summer that had been their main concern before coronavirus struck.
But given the ongoing pandemic and need for preparation time, the most likely plan was expected to be a start date of July 23, 2021, public broadcaster NHK said over the weekend.
Message to federations
The governing body also said it will work closely with the International Federations while finalising the revised qualification systems.
“We will continue to work closely with each IF on the necessary revisions of the Tokyo 2020 qualification systems. Our aim is to confirm these to the NOCs shortly and these will be posted on the NOCNet,” IOC said, according to PTI.
“To facilitate these adaptations, and reflecting the postponement of the Games, we are making the necessary modifications to the qualification system principles to include, for example, the relaxation of the maximum two-year period and amendments to the qualification deadlines.”
(With AFP and PTI inputs)