Olympics in Tokyo ‘are off until 2021’

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The Olympic rings are seen near the Statue of Liberty replica at Tokyo's Odaiba district on March 23, 2020. (AFP / Behrouz Mehri)
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Senior International Olympic Committee (IOC) official Dick Pound said March 23, 2020 a postponement of this year's Tokyo Olympics is now inevitable as the world reels from the coronavirus pandemic. (AFP)
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The front of Canada House is seen on March 23, 2020 in Montreal. Canada pulled out of the Tokyo Olympics over coronavirus fears. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press via AP)
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Updated 25 March 2020

Olympics in Tokyo ‘are off until 2021’

  • The event is scheduled for July 24-Aug. 9. Olympic body, Japan promise decision within month
  • Canada and Australia both bluntly said they would not participate this year

JEDDAH: Olympics chiefs have postponed the 2020 Games due to begin in Tokyo in July, International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound said on Monday.

Australia and Canada had already withdrawn earlier in the day as organizers came under global pressure to call off the event because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“On the basis of the information the IOC has, postponement has been decided,” Pound said. “The parameters going forward have not been determined, but the Games are not going to start on July 24, that much I know.”

The event, scheduled for July 24-Aug. 9, is now likely to be held in 2021, with the details to be worked out in the next four weeks.

More than 337,000 people worldwide have been infected by the novel coronavirus and over 14,600 have died in a pandemic that the World Health Organization said was accelerating.

The IOC and the Japanese government have both edged back from weeks of blanket insistence the Games would go ahead, announcing a month-long consultation on scenarios including postponement.

The Olympics have never been delayed before, though they were canceled in 1916, 1940 and 1944 during the two world wars, and major Cold War boycotts disrupted the Moscow and Los Angeles Games in 1980 and 1984.

Canada and Australia both bluntly said they would not participate this year. “We are in the midst of a global health crisis that is far more significant than sport,” said Canada’s Olympic Committee and Paralympic Committee.

“The moment the IOC indicates that it is thinking about other solutions, it has already decided to delay the Games,” said French Olympic Committee President Denis Masseglia.
Canada and Australia both bluntly said they would not participate this year. 

“We are in the midst of a global health crisis that is far more significant than sport,” said Canada’s Olympic Committee and Paralympic Committee.

The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) also told its athletes to prepare for a Tokyo Games in 2021.

“Our athletes have been magnificent in their positive attitude to training and preparing, but the stress and uncertainty have been extremely challenging for them,” said Australia’s Olympics Chef de Mission Ian Chesterman.

Paralympic athletes were considered at particular risk from the epidemic given some had underlying health problems.

Various nations urged a quick decision from the IOC, which is led by its powerful president, Thomas Bach, a German lawyer and former Olympic fencing champion.


ALSO READ: Canada, Australia pull out of 2020 Tokyo Olympics




Sad but supportive

Athletes were broadly supportive of postponing the Games, though sad at seeing their dreams in doubt.

“Competing in the Olympics is my #1 goal but I fully support this decision and I commend our leadership for taking a stand,” tweeted Canadian tennis player Gabriela Dabrowski.

Only a few dissented, reigning Pan American 400 meters hurdles champion Sage Watson calling Canada’s move “premature.”

Monday’s announcements followed growing pressure from big stakeholders including US Track and Field, UK Athletics and other national Olympic committees.

“An Olympic Games in July this year is neither feasible nor desirable,” World Athletics chief Sebastian Coe said. “We owe it to our athletes to give them respite where we can.”

Japan’s government seemed to be bowing to the inevitable despite the massive losses and logistics headaches it would face.


'No option but to postpone




Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, Tokyo 2020 President Yoshiro Mori, IOC chief Thomas Bach and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the ‘One Year to Go ceremony.’ (Reuters file photo) 


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told parliament that if holding the event as planned was too difficult, “we may have no option but to consider postponing the Games, given the Olympic principle of putting the health of athletes first.”

Abe has staked his legacy as Japan’s longest-serving premier on the Games and was hoping for a boom in tourism and consumer spending. At risk is more than $3 billion in domestic sponsorship. But finding a new date could be complicated as the summer 2021 calendar is already crowded, while 2022 will see the soccer World Cup and the Beijing Winter Olympics.

Japanese sponsors, from Toyota Motor Corp. to Panasonic Corp, were nervously watching.

But Tokyo stocks sensitive to the success of the Olympics surged on Monday, after sharp falls in prior weeks, thanks to expectations of a delay rather than a cancelation.

Postponement is a potential major blow to the IOC’s prestige and power after its insistence the Games would go ahead.

Many athletes already felt disrespected during the Russian doping scandal when Bach ensured Russians could carry on competing, albeit as neutrals. 

And his iron grip on the IOC could weaken after various national committees at the weekend distanced themselves from his stance over Tokyo. He is up for re-election in 2021.

(With Reuters)


Tokyo Olympics rescheduled for July 23-Aug. 8 in 2021

Tokyo 2020 President Yoshiro Mori Tokyo 2020 Olympics CEO Toshiro Muto during a press conference in Tokyo on Monday. (AFP)
Updated 16 min 3 sec ago

Tokyo Olympics rescheduled for July 23-Aug. 8 in 2021

  • Organizers wanted to have more room for the athletes to qualify, after many qualifying events were postponed

TOKYO: The Tokyo Olympics will open next year in the same time slot scheduled for this year’s Games.

Tokyo organizers said Monday the opening ceremony will take place on July 23, 2021 — almost exactly one year after the Games were due to start this year.
“The schedule for the Games is key to preparing for the Games,” Tokyo organizing committee President Yoshiro Mori said. “This will only accelerate our progress.”
Last week, the IOC and Japanese organizers postponed the Olympics until 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
This year’s Games were scheduled to open on July 24 and close on Aug. 9. But the near exact one-year delay will see the rescheduled closing ceremony on Aug. 8.
There had been talk of switching the Olympics to spring, a move that would coincide with the blooming of Japan’s famous cherry blossoms. But it would also clash with European soccer and North American sports leagues.
Mori said a spring Olympics was considered but holding the Games later gives more space to complete the many qualifying events that have been postponed by the virus outbreak.
“We wanted to have more room for the athletes to qualify,” Mori said.
After holding out for weeks, local organizers and the IOC last week postponed the Tokyo Games under pressure from athletes, national Olympic bodies and sports federations. It’s the first postponement in Olympic history, though there were several cancellations during wartime. The Paralympics were rescheduled to Aug. 24-Sept. 5.
The new Olympic dates will conflict with the scheduled world championships in track and swimming, but those events are now expected to also be pushed back.
“The IOC has had close discussions with the relevant international federations,” Mori said. “I believe the IFs have accepted the Games being held in the summer.”
Both Mori and CEO Toshiro Muto have said the cost of rescheduling the Olympics will be “massive” — local reports estimate billions of dollars — with most of the expenses borne by Japanese taxpayers.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Spring Olympics was considered but holding the Games later gives more space to complete the many qualifying events.

• The new Olympic dates will conflict with the scheduled world championships in track and swimming, but those events are now expected to also be pushed back.

• The cost of rescheduling the Olympics will be ‘massive’ — local reports estimate billions of dollars — with most of the expenses borne by Japanese taxpayers.

Muto promised transparency in calculating the costs, and testing times deciding how they are divided up.
“Since it (the Olympics) were scheduled for this summer, all the venues had given up hosting any other events during this time, so how do we approach that?” Muto asked.
“In addition, there will need to be guarantees when we book the new dates, and there is a possibility this will incur rent payments. So there will be costs incurred and we will need to consider them one by one. I think that will be the tougher process.”
Katsuhiro Miyamoto, an emeritus professor of sports economics at Kansai University, puts the costs as high as $4 billion. That would cover the price of maintaining stadiums, refitting them, paying rentals, penalties and other expenses.
Japan is officially spending $12.6 billion to organize the Olympics. However, an audit bureau of the Japanese government says the costs are twice that much. All of the spending is public money except $5.6 billion from a privately funded operating budget.
The Switzerland-based International Olympic Committee is contributing $1.3 billion, according to organizing committee documents. The IOC’s contribution goes into the operating budget.
IOC President Thomas Bach has repeatedly called the Tokyo Olympics the best prepared in history. However, Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso also termed them “cursed.” Aso competed in shooting in the 1976 Olympics, and was born in 1940.
The Olympics planned for 1940 in Tokyo were canceled because of World War II.
The run-up to the Olympics also saw IOC member Tsunekazu Takeda, who also headed the Japanese Olympic Committee, forced to resign last year amid a bribery scandal.