Japan 2020 Olympics and Paralympics Postponed

 On Tuesday the International Olympic Committee decided to postpone the Japan 2020 Summer Olympics due to COVID-19, setting a new date for 2021. After several weeks of resisting pressure from Olympians, governments and the media – the decision was finally made to push the games back 12 months.

Japan National Stadium.

The New National Stadium is a multi-purpose athletics stadium in Shinjuku, Tokyo. It will be the centre piece for the games when they eventually happen in the summer of 2021. ©daryan/Unsplash

We are in extremely uncertain times, and the postponement of the Olympic Games is an unprecedented act that has never occurred during peacetime. There is no guarantee how long humanity will be dealing with the fallout from Coronavirus, and as we’ve previously reported, betting odds suggested games cancelation for several months before this decision was made.

The International Olympic Committee had last week come to the decision of monitoring the situation for a few more weeks, previously setting themselves a deadline of the end of April to make a definite decision. But there had been mounting pressure from across the world for a quicker and more decisive decision to be made.

Whilst the Olympic Games this summer in Japan is the biggest sporting event to be affected by the Coronavirus pandemic, there have been many other global sporting events decimated, as 2020 has seen sport impacted in a huge and unprecedented way.

In football, the Euro 2020 tournament is postponed until 2021. The competition was due to be played at several locations across the continent, the first time using such an international and diversity orientated format. The sport’s largest leagues, including Premier League, Serie A and Bundesliga have all been suspended, with massive confusion and lack of clarity regarding how the competitions will be concluded.

The huge impact on professional sport has been felt across the entire spectrum, from Formula 1 to tennis, athletes, spectators, and owners are being told to give up the thing they love in order to slow down the spread of Coronavirus, allow our emergency services to better cope with the strain, and ultimately save more lives.

The Toughest Challenge Ever for the Olympics

Let us not overlook the significance of this moment, which is arguably the biggest decision sport has ever taken. During peacetime, the modern Olympics have run uninterrupted, apart from the world wars, since 1896.  

The Olympics has already cost over £10bn to organize, and the re-organization of this mega-event is a tremendously daunting task. The fallout of this will be hugely significant, and Japan will be left mulling over their balance sheets to account for the financial loss inflicted by this postponement. Commercial contracts will need to be reduced, and the availability of venues must be revisited. Assuming that the already crowded sporting calendar will be able to accommodate for the weeks and months needed to host the games.

The event will still be billed as Tokyo 2020, despite being pushed back 12 months into the summer of 2021. Releasing a joint statement, the organizers of Tokyo 2020 and the International Olympic Committee said:

The unprecedented and unpredictable spread of the outbreak has seen the situation in the rest of the world deteriorating. In the present circumstances and based on the information provided by the WHO today, the IOC president and the prime minister of Japan have concluded that the Games of the XXXII Olympiad in Tokyo must be rescheduled to a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021, to safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games and the international community.Statement, International Olympic Committee

The reaction of athletes around the world has been unanimously supportive, with calls coming from across the sporting spectrum for the games to make a decisive decision and end the confusion.

On a personal level many athletes will feel devastated that the target of their training for the past four years has been abruptly postponed. Elite athletes have to be 100% committed to their trade to reach the level of performance required at an Olympic Games, living, breathing and giving it all their focus. But it is in this spirit that hosting the games makes no sense, and making this decision early has been welcomed across the sporting world.

The Correct Decision, Taken Just In Time

The Olympics and Paralympics have been typically resilient to cancellation or postponement throughout history, taking place in times of financial crises, security concerns due to terrorism, and whilst international diplomacy has been in meltdown.

The world is changing quickly, and with half the planet under lockdown, the Olympic games where thousands of athletes and even more spectators would be gathered in one place, unfortunately no longer makes sense.

Perversely, this decision may even be the making of the Tokyo Olympics. With over 200 countries present at the games, and the sense that in an Olympic Games stadium where records are being smashed and champions are being crowned, that you’re truly at the center of the world.

Tokyo will ignite that feeling and more. When the world finally emerges from one of its most challenging junctures in recent history, there will be an outpouring of love, festivity and a celebration of all that we are and have in common. It will be an Olympic Games like no other, and one that we’ll never again, take for granted.

For more information, see the full statement released by the organizers and the International Olympic Committee.

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The Olympic rings and several representative athletes.

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