Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe confirmed today an agreement has been reached with the International Olympic Committee to postpone the Tokyo Games by one year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Here's what that means.
What will the new date be?
It would make sense to stick with the same dates, just a different year. So possibly July 23-Aug. 8. The Summer Games needs to take place during summer or late spring (spare a thought for the beach volleyball players if it was in early January with an average high of 10 degrees).
That's if there are no major changes to other sporting calendars mainly because the Olympics relies on the NBA, major football competitions, the Tour de France, golf and tennis majors to provide the biggest sporting names to the event.
Nearly all 33 sports on the Olympic program have key events, including world championships, on the docket for 2021. Perhaps the best example of what a disruption this can cause would come from track. Famous Hayward Field at University of Oregon was rebuild and expanded at the cost of US$200 million to hold next year's world championships. Now that event will likely be postponed.
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So Tokyo 2021?
No, the event will still be referred to as Tokyo 2020, despite most certainly taking place in 2021. It will be the first time the games will be held in an odd-numbered year since the modern era began in 1896. It won't change the four-year cycle. The Paris Olympics are still expected to take place in 2024.
What about the venues?
This is still quite a bit to sort out. One reason the IOC took longer to make the decision was because it wanted to figure out logistics. It will be a daunting challenge. Many of the arenas, stadiums and hotels are under contract for a games held from July 24 to August 9 - this year.
Remaking those arrangements is doable, but will come at a cost. There are also considerations beyond the price tag. Among them: The US$1 billion-plus the IOC was to receive from NBC, the millions in smaller athlete endorsement contracts that are now in limbo, the budgets of the individual national Olympic committees, to name a few.
What happens to athletes already qualified?
Instead of athletes around the world being 122 days from the opening ceremony, they're now more than 400. Only 57 percent of qualifying places for the Olympics had been decided before the pandemic started affecting sporting events around the world. It's now going to be up to each sporting body to decide whether those qualifying places stand or athletes will have to re-qualify.
What about the flame?
The Olympics flame had already been lit in Greece and arrived in Japan two weeks ago. Organisers had planned to go ahead with the traditional torch relay despite the spreading coronavirus pandemic. But the president of the organising committee said today the relay would not go ahead shortly after the International Olympic Committee officially postponed the games.
Yoshiro Mori says "the flame will be stored and displayed in Fukushima." The relay was expected to start in northeastern Fukushima prefecture with no torch, no torchbearers and no public.
Is the Paralympics also postponed?
The Paralympics are governed by the same contract as the Tokyo Olympics.
IPC president Andrew Parsons says "by taking this decision now, everyone involved in the Paralympic Movement, including all Para athletes, can fully focus on their own health and well-being and staying safe during this unprecedented and difficult time."
- With AP