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Tokyo Olympics officially rescheduled for summer 2021

Tokyo, Japan

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics have been officially rescheduled to begin July 23, 2021, and run through August 8 of next year, following a new agreement between the International Olympic Committee and Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee. 

The quick rescheduling arrives less than a week following the official postponement of the Games due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. The new schedule almost exactly follows on the calendar the originally intended timetable of July 24 to August 9 of this year.

With the new set of dates, the IOC and Tokyo 2020 organizers sought to balance the health and well-being of competing athletes, the interests of the Olympic movement and the Japanese organizers, as well as the overall international sports calendar that is becoming increasingly crowded due to the growing series of virus-imposed delays.

The IOC and Tokyo 2020 also said in a statement that the new dates for next summer “give the health authorities and all involved in the organization of the Games the maximum time to deal with the constantly changing landscape and the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. The new dates…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 [sports federations].”

IOC president Thomas Bach said: “Humankind currently finds itself in a dark tunnel. These Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 can be a light at the end of this tunnel.”

There had been some consideration of staging the rescheduled Olympics in the spring, and Bach last week had said “all options were on the table” regarding new dates. A spring slotting would have also allowed for showcasing of Japan’s famed cherry blossom trees. 

But that timing also would have conflicted with many other parts of the global sports schedule, compressed a qualification schedule that now needs to be entirely rebuilt, and would have likely prevented top athletes in numerous sports such as basketball from competing at all. 

In the end, sticking to the summertime slating next year proved to be by far the most palatable option. Scheduled world championships in athletics and swimming are now expected to be pushed back following this formal rescheduling of the Olympics.

Mori Yoshiro, president of the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee, added: “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.

“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.”

With the new dates now officially in place, Tokyo 2020 organizers can begin dealing in earnest with the myriad details involved with the postponement, including ticketing, housing, and venue development. Athletes who have already qualified for the Olympics will retain their slots for the Games next year.

Rights-holders and other partners cheered the rapid move to land on new dates.

Discovery, which holds the Olympics broadcast rights in Europe (excluding Russia) from 2018 to 2024 in a €1.3bn ($1.41bn) deal, stated: “We are pleased that the IOC and Tokyo 2020 have acted swiftly to reschedule the Games and provide certainty for stakeholders, especially for athletes, fans, and brand partners. We look forward to an incredible summer of sport in 2021.”

Japanese officials have said the cost of the Olympics rescheduling will be “massive,” and have already been estimated to approach $3bn (€2.68bn). The Tokyo 2020 Games had an official budget of $12.6bn, but national auditing there has pointed to costs for the event at more than twice that figure.