Postponed Tokyo Olympics to open July 23 next year

The IOC says the new dates would give health authorities and organisers ‘the maximum time to deal with the constantly changing landscape and disruption caused by Covid-19’

TOKYO • The Tokyo Olympics will begin on July 23 next year, the organisers said yesterday, after the coronavirus forced the historic decision to postpone the Games until 2021.

The announcement comes less than a week after the organisers were forced to delay the Games under heavy pressure from athletes and sports federations as the global outbreak worsened.

“The Olympics will be held from July 23 to Aug 8, 2021. The Paralympics will be held from Aug 24 to Sept 5,” Tokyo 2020 chief Yoshiro Mori (picture) told reporters at a hastily arranged evening news conference.

Only hours earlier, Mori had said he expected a decision from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) during the course of the week. But yesterday evening, he said an emergency teleconference had been held with the IOC and the date finalised.

“We agreed that the timing of the event will be in summer as originally planned, considering the coronavirus…and a certain amount of time needed for preparations, selection and qualification of athletes,” he added.

In a statement, the IOC said the new dates would give health authorities and organisers “the maximum time to deal with the constantly changing landscape and the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic”.

The decision would also cause “minimum” disruption to the international sports calendar, the body said.

A poster showing the original planned date of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is seen in a subway station in Tokyo (Pic: AFP)

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics were due to open on July 24 this year 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.

The postponement has handed organisers the “unprecedented” task of rearranging an event seven years in the making, and Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto has admitted the additional costs will be “massive”.

According to the latest budget, the Games were due to cost US$12.6 billion (RM54.56 billion), shared between the organising committee, the government of Japan and Tokyo city.

The Games are now being billed as the expression of humanity’s triumph over the coronavirus.

“Humankind currently finds itself in a dark tunnel,” IOC chief Thomas Bach said in yesterday’s statement announcing the new date.

“These Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 can be a light at the end of this tunnel.”Mori earlier warned that organisers were faced with an “unprecedented challenge”.

“But I believe it is the mission of the Tokyo 2020 organising committee to hold the Olympics and Paralympics next year as a proof of mankind’s victory” against the virus. AFP