COVID-19: Tokyo Olympics postponed due to Coronavirus pandemic to open on July 23 next year
On Monday organisers said that the Tokyo Olympics will begin on July 23 next year, after the coronavirus forced the historic decision to postpone the Games until 2021. Tokyo 2020 chief Yoshiro Mori told reporters at a hastily arranged news conference that “the Olympics will be held from July 23 to August 8, 2021. The Paralympics will be held from August 24 to September 5.”
Only hours earlier, Mori had said he expected a decision from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) during the course of the week. The Tokyo 2020 Olympics were decided 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. 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.
Due to the heat, the marathon has been moved to Sapporo, a city some 800 kilometres (500 miles) to the north of Tokyo where the weather is cooler even at the height of summer. 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”.
As per the latest budget, the Games were due to cost $12.6 billion, shared between the organising committee, the government of Japan and Tokyo city. However, that number is hotly contested with a much-publicised government audit suggesting the central government was spending several times that amount on items organisers claim are only tangentially related to the Olympics.
The postponement affects every aspect of the organisation — hotels, ticketing, venues and transport being among the major headaches. Hotels have had to cancel bookings, dealing them a bitter blow at a time when tourism is already being hammered by the coronavirus.
Some venues that had booked events years in advance will potentially have to scrap them to make way for the rescheduled Olympics and there is still uncertainty about whether ticket-holders will get refunded. Another thorny issue is the athletes’ village, which was due to be converted into luxury apartments after the Games, some of which have already found buyers.
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