Summer Olympics in Tokyo to Start on July 23, 2021

Tokyo Olympics
New dates set for Tokyo Olympics

The new date for the Games, postponed for a year in response to the coronavirus pandemic, gives athletes time to recalibrate their training schedules.

After weeks of uncertainty around having the Summer Olympics and when, organizers of the event on Monday provided some clarity: The Games in Tokyo will start July 23, 2021, almost exactly a year later than originally scheduled.

For the 11,000 athletes and multitudes of others who have built lives, careers and businesses around the Games, the new date sets off more than a year of upheaval and complex planning, unprecedented for an event that has been canceled only three times during the war and never previously moved to a new date.

Official News: Tokyo Olympics postponed until 2021 due to coronavirus

Nearly a week after Olympic officials and Japanese organizers bowed to widespread pressure and announced they would postpone, Tokyo 2020 organizers gave the new time frame, with an opening ceremony July 23 and the closing one Aug. 8. The Paralympic Games, which were supposed to start Aug. 25, will now take place in 2021 from Aug. 24 to Sept. 5.

Yoshiro Mori, right, the president of the Tokyo Olympics, and Fujio Mitarai, the honorary president, in Tokyo on Monday.
Yoshiro Mori, right, the president of the Tokyo Olympics, and Fujio Mitarai, the honorary president, in Tokyo on Monday. Credit…Pool photo by Issei Kato

Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee, told sports federations on a conference call before the announcement that the date was picked to give organizers the maximum time to deal with the fallout from the coronavirus. When he called for a show of support on the call, it was unanimous.

“I am confident that, working together with the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee, the Tokyo metropolitan government, the Japanese government, and all our stakeholders, we can master this unprecedented challenge,” Bach said in a statement Monday.

Runners passing the Zojoji Buddhist temple during the Tokyo Marathon in February 2014. The Olympic  marathon will be held in the cooler, northern city of Sapporo.
Runners passing the Zojoji Buddhist temple during the Tokyo Marathon in February 2014. The Olympic marathon will be held in the cooler, northern city of Sapporo.

For Kate Nye, 21, an American weight lifter, the delay means graduating from college and deferring graduate school for another year in order to continue punishing sets with the barbells and weight blocks in the garage of her Michigan home. Still, that was preferable to having no Games, which many athletes feared might happen until Bach promised four days before the postponement that the Games would take place.

Bach made official what The New York Times and other news organizations had reported over the weekend.

The cost of the delay will be felt most sharply in Japan. Local organizers have described the cost of rescheduling what had already been called the Recovery Olympics — a reference to the rebuilding effort after a deadly earthquake and tsunami in 2011 that damaged a nuclear reactor in Fukushima — as “enormous.” Estimates vary, but none put the extra cost to Japan at less than $2 billion.

Like the previous Olympics, the actual cost of organizing and executing the Tokyo Games will be much higher than the budget Tokyo first presented. The 2020 organizers say they are spending $12.6 billion to stage the Games, while a government audit report published last year said the actual cost was several billion more because of the construction of secondary infrastructure.

For Japan, the Olympics has been a national project, one which domestic companies have supported in amounts unmatched by any previous Olympics. The national sponsorship program had brought in more than $3 billion in sponsorship revenue, three times more than at any previous Olympics.

Advertising promoting the Tokyo Games at Haneda Airport.
Advertising promoting the Tokyo Games at Haneda Airport.

The traditional July-August date means the I.O.C. will probably be able to call on the presence of top players from soccer, tennis and golf, some of the biggest names in global sports and a big attraction for television audiences.

Now that the date has been set, the next challenge will be to reorganize the qualifying competitions. Bach said athletes who have already qualified would be guaranteed a place for 2021.

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