It didn’t take long for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), in consultation with the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (TOCOG), the government of Japan and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government to settle on a new date for the Games of the 32nd Olympiad and the ensuing Paralympics.
For the first time in history, the Olympic Games are set for an odd year – 2021 – July 23 to August 8. The Tokyo Paralympics were rescheduled to August 24 – September 5. As it relates to the Olympics, it’s an unprecedented move, and one that forced World Athletics (WA) into action regarding their world championships. The 18th athletics world championships were originally set for August 6-15 at Hayward Field, in Eugene, Oregon, USA; that event has now been pushed back a year to August 7-16, at the same venue.
Through a press statement, WA gave its approval of the new date for the Olympics.
“We support the new 2021 dates for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. This gives our athletes the time they need to get back into training and competition,” the release stated. “Everyone needs to be flexible and compromise. We would like to thank the Oregon 2021 organizing committee, their stakeholders and our partners for their collaboration and willingness to explore all options. We are also in discussions with the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) as it relates to the Commonwealth Games and we have considered the European Championships.”
The 2022 Commonwealth Games were originally set for July 27 to August 7, 2022, in Birmingham, England. It’s possible the date for that event could be altered as well.
Bahamas Olympic Committee (BOC) President Romell Knowles said they are now planning for the road ahead. The BOC has dominion over The Bahamas’ teams for both the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games.
“We are in unchartered territory as we collectively rewrite history,” said Knowles in a press release. “I must emphasize that we must continue to collect data of athletes in the system. As a matter of fact, we must complete our data entry, so that new additions can be managed without incident. The BOC and the management team of the Olympics stand ready to assist the respective federations as best as we can.”
All of the postponements are as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. So far, there are over 765,000 cases of the novel coronavirus worldwide and almost 37,000 have died.
IOC President Thomas Bach said in a press release: “These new dates give the health authorities and all involved in the organization of the games the maximum time to deal with the constantly changing landscape and the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Humankind currently finds itself in a dark tunnel. These Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 can be a light at the end of this tunnel.”
Bach had left open the possibility of holding the games in the spring, which would have featured more favorable weather and allowed Japan to show off its famous cherry blossom trees, but it is understood that spring would have presented significant logistical challenges and possibly prevented top athletes in sports, like basketball, from competing.
The question, now, is will a year be long enough for the postponement period. According to a USA Today report, a coronavirus vaccine is not expected to be widely available until 12 to 18 months from now.
“The danger is in the absence of a vaccine, that if you had a big worldwide event like that, that you could reintroduce – reboot, so to speak – chains of transmission, which would then require you to take the very restrictive measures that we’re having to take now to tamp it down,” New York University and Bellevue Hospital epidemiologist Celine Gounder said to USA Today Sports.
Be that as it may, at least athletes now have a timetable to alter their training schedules, and international federations and committees can begin the process of rescheduling conflicting events.
Despite now being confirmed for 2021, the Olympic Games will still be known as Tokyo 2020.