Tokyo 2020 in 21
On the 24th of March, the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) President Thomas Bach and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced the postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games to 2021.
In my opinion, as the Japanese say, this was a “Shikata ga nai” (it can not be helped) situation, which means that nothing can be done about it. In the current situation, we find ourselves, the postponement was the best solution, even with the number of inconveniences and challenges that have to be strategically overcome.
Before the announcement, all the stakeholders involved in the Games planning and delivery were monitoring the situation day-by-day whilst adapting to the daily changes of the Covid-19 situation and following the advice of the World Health Organization (WHO). First, they had to analyse and evaluate if Japan would have the necessary conditions to provide a safe environment to stage the Games. As the IOC’s President stated, on a Q&A released on their website, the first goal was to have a “clear focus on the developments in Japan”, which they acknowledged Japan was fighting effectively and implementing efficient measures. But as we all have heard a thousand times, this is a rare situation that changes daily. And with the WHO Director-General releasing the information that the spreading of the COVID-19 was accelerating rapidly, it wasn’t a question of whether Japan would have safe conditions to receive all the international participants. But rather a question of whether the world would be able to travel to Japan.
Therefore, with these crucial updates, there was one of two possible solutions to the question of what to do with this year’s Olympic Games.
The first one would be a cancellation. In Olympic history, the Games have been cancelled only three times. Due to the World War I outbreak in 1914, the 1916 Olympic Games, supposed to be hosted by the German Empire, was cancelled. The 1940 Olympic Games were gonna take place in Japan, but in 1937 they forfeited its rights because of the war with China. As a result, the Olympic organisation relocated the Games to other countries; however, in 1939, the Games were officially cancelled because of Hitler’s invasion of Poland. And the 1944 London Olympic Games were also cancelled because of the ongoing World War II. Interestingly, even the 1968 Mexico Olympic Games and the 1972 Munich Olympic Games weren’t cancelled. In 1968, ten days prior to the Games opening ceremony, the government’s military opened fire on a crowd of youth students protesting, which resulting in killing hundreds of people. And in 1972, an armed group of terrorists attacked the Israeli compound at the Olympic Village, killing eleven athletes. However, this year the costs of cancelling the 2020 Tokyo Olympics would have resulted in a catastrophic financial loss to all the stakeholders involved. So, as the IOC President stated, even though this option was studied and wouldn’t need the consultation of any stakeholders, in the end, it wasn’t really an option.
The second option was a postponement.
As IOC President stated: “While a cancellation could have been decided by the IOC alone, it goes without saying, that a decision on a postponement could only be taken with the Organising Committee and the Japanese authorities being on board” (IOC 2020).
So, after a lot of daily analysis, the decision was to postpone the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games to 2021. This is the first-ever postponement in the 124-years of Olympic modern history.
Now, you may have hundreds of questions, right? Well, some crucial information has already been clarified, but as expected, a lot of aspects still have to be studied and decided, such as the dates.
Until yesterday, we knew that even though the Games were postponed to 2021, the name will be the same, the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. And that a Task Force was created in February, called “Here we go,” to monitor the impact of the pandemic on the Games, which switched to focus on finding the new dates and other crucial decisions. Finally, the IOC President also announced that athletes who had already qualified for this year would keep their places for the 2021 competition.
However, today the IOC announced that the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games will take place from 23 July to 8 August 2021, and the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games will take place from 24 August to 5 September 2021. It was also explained in their website:
“These new dates give the health authorities and all involved in the organisation of the Games the maximum time to deal with the constantly changing landscape and the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The new dates, exactly one year after those originally planned for 2020 (Olympic Games: 24 July to 9 August 2020 and Paralympic Games: 25 August to 6 September 2020), also have the added benefit that any disruption that the postponement will cause to the international sports calendar can be kept to a minimum, in the interests of the athletes and the IFs. Additionally, they will provide sufficient time to finish the qualification process. The same heat mitigation measures as planned for 2020 will be implemented” (IOC 2020).
It’s very good that we already have the new dates, but what does this postponement mean? And how will it impact not only the Games but the World? -> Well, I’ll explain that next time!
IOC (2020) “IOC, IPC, Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee and Tokyo Metropolitan Government Announce New Dates for the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020”. Olympic News [online] available from: <https://www.olympic.org/news/ioc-ipc-tokyo-2020-organising-committee-and-tokyo-metropolitan-government-announce-new-dates-for-the-olympic-and-paralympic-games-tokyo-2020> [30 March 2020].
IOC (2020) “IOC President: “It Will Require Everybody’S Efforts To Make These Games A Symbol Of Hope.””. Olympic News. [online] available from: <https://www.olympic.org/news/ioc-president-it-will-require-everybody-s-efforts-to-make-these-games-a-symbol-of-hope> [28 March 2020].