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New dates set for Tokyo Olympics, Paralympics in 2021

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The Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics have been rescheduled for nearly one year later with the Olympics set for July 23-Aug. 8, 2021. The Paralympics will be Aug 24-Sept 5.

“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,” according to a press release. The new dates “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 original Olympic Opening Ceremony was to be July 24, 2020, before the Games were postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Organizers said last Tuesday that the Games would be moved to some time in 2021 before the end of summer.

Until Monday’s announcement, it was possible the Olympics could have been scheduled for the spring for the first time since the 1928 Amsterdam Games. IOC President Thomas Bach said keeping the July-August timeframe had “unanimous support” from international sport federations.

The new Olympic dates overlap with the original dates for the 2021 World Championships in aquatics (July 16-Aug. 1) and track and field (Aug. 6-15). Both federations said last week it was possible their world championships dates could be moved to accommodate new Olympic dates.

Cornel Marculescu, the executive director of the international aquatics federation (FINA), said last week there was no chance of its worlds in Fukuoka, Japan, being bumped back to 2022.

“No, no, no, no, no, no,” he said, according to The Associated Press. “If they do [the Olympics] in summer, then we (will have to change) the dates (of the world championships).”

World Athletics issued a further update after Monday’s Olympic announcement, saying it began working with organizers of its 2021 World Championships in Eugene, Ore., on new dates in 2022.

The Tokyo Olympics will end fewer than six months before the start of the Beijing Winter Games, which open Feb. 4, 2022. It marks the shortest break between a Summer and Winter Games since they were last held in the same year in 1992.

Non-medal Olympic events typically start one or two days before the Opening Ceremony. The original Tokyo Olympic schedule had softball games kicking off competition two days before the Opening Ceremony.

The new competition schedule for the Tokyo Games in 2021 has not been released.

It is the earliest start to a Summer Olympics since the 1996 Atlanta Games began July 19.

The original Paralympic Opening Ceremony was to be Aug. 25, 2020.

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Tokyo Olympics postponed until 2021

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The IOC and Tokyo Olympic organizers agreed to move the Tokyo Games to 2021.

It will mark the first time in history that the start of an Olympics will be delayed to another year. The Opening Ceremony will not be held on July 24 as scheduled, but on an undetermined 2021 date, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“In the present circumstances and based on the information provided by the [World Health Organization] 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,” according to a joint statement from the IOC and the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee. “The leaders agreed that the Olympic Games in Tokyo could stand as a beacon of hope to the world during these troubled times and that the Olympic flame could become the light at the end of the tunnel in which the world finds itself at present. Therefore, it was agreed that the Olympic flame will stay in Japan. It was also agreed that the Games will keep the name Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.”

‘Very alarming figures from all over the world’

The announcement came two days after IOC President Thomas Bach said detailed discussions began to assess the coronavirus’ impact on the Olympics, including the scenario of postponement but not cancellation.

For Bach, seeing specific virus numbers in Africa, as part of the global spread, led into calling an emergency IOC Executive Board meeting on Sunday. He then came to a postponement agreement with Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo in a Tuesday telephone call.

“We heard the World Health Organization speaking about an acceleration of the spread of the virus,” Bach said. “This was very alarming news on Sunday and Monday. And we also saw more travel restrictions all across the globe.”

One of the next steps: Determining when the Olympics will take place next year. The world’s largest sporting event includes 11,000 athletes from more than 200 nations. Bach called it “a huge jigsaw puzzle.”

“A number of critical venues needed for the Games could potentially not be available anymore,” he wrote in a letter to athletes Sunday. “The situations with millions of nights already booked in hotels is extremely difficult to handle, and the international sports calendar for at least 33 Olympic sports would have to be adapted.”

On Monday, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee joined the list of National Olympic Committees, including those from Canada and Australia, urging for postponement. USOPC leaders called it “the most promising path” after surveying more than 1,780 Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls. Sixty-eight percent said they did not think the Games could be fairly competed if continued as scheduled.

Olympic qualifying was already changing

Before the postponement announcement, the IOC was already working with international federations to make changes to Olympic qualifying, which has been impacted by global sporting events being canceled into April and May.

An increase in the number of overall athletes allowed for a sport will be considered on a case-by-case basis under exceptional circumstances, the IOC said last week, while adding that 57 percent of athletes had already qualified for the Olympics.

A total of 76 athletes had already qualified for the U.S. Olympic team.

“With this decision, the work of planning a new version of the Tokyo Games is now officially underway,” USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland wrote in a letter to U.S. athletes. “At the same time, we know from you, it’s important that the process of ensuring it is a fair and equitable Games be given equal attention. Working in partnership with athletes, [National Governing Bodies], International Federations, the IOC and IPC, we’ll (re)define standards for selection and anti-doping, and ensure the reimagined Games live up to the original promise of Tokyo 2020.”

The Japanese leg of the Olympic torch relay, originally scheduled to start Thursday, has been postponed to to-be-determined date. The Olympic Flame will remain in Japan until the revised Opening Ceremony date.

The modern Olympics, first held in Athens in 1896, have only ever been canceled for World War I (1916) and World War II (1940 and 1944).

During the Games, terror attacks at the 1972 Munich Olympics postponed events for one day. The 1996 Atlanta Centennial Olympic Park bombing delayed some events to later that day, Olympic historian Bill Mallon said.

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USOPC leaders: Olympic postponement ‘most promising’ path

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U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee leaders said, “It’s more clear than ever that the path toward postponement is the most promising,” after surveying more than 1,780 Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls about the coronavirus’ impact on their training and, potentially, the Tokyo Games.

“We are now confident that we have heard a wide range of viewpoints and understand the diversity of challenges our athletes face,” USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland and Chair Susanne Lyons said in a joint statement accompanying the survey results. “We regret that there is no outcome that can solve all the concerns we face. Our most important conclusion from this broad athlete response is that even if the current significant health concerns could be alleviated by late summer, the enormous disruptions to the training environment, doping controls and qualification process can’t be overcome in a satisfactory manner. To that end, it’s more clear than ever that the path toward postponement is the most promising, and we encourage the IOC to take all needed steps to ensure the Games can be conducted under safe and fair conditions for all competitors. We look forward to their feedback and direction, and stand ready to work in support of Team USA and in full cooperation with the global community.”

A USOPC spokesperson later confirmed the statement meant that, out of the Tokyo Olympic outcomes being considered, they are advocating for postponement. The Opening Ceremony is scheduled for July 24.

The survey, sent to about 4,000 athletes with a 45 percent response rate, yielded results that included:

  • Nearly 65 percent of athletes said their training has been severely impacted, or they can’t train at all.
  • Nearly two-thirds of athletes feel that continuing to train would either put their health at risk or aren’t sure if it would put their health at risk.
  • Nearly 70 percent of athletes said they would feel comfortable competing if the World Health Organization deemed it safe.
  • 68 percent said they did not think the Games could be fairly competed if continued as scheduled.
  • Nearly 93 percent reported a preference for postponing the Games versus canceling them outright.

On Sunday, IOC President Thomas Bach said detailed discussions began to assess the coronavirus’ impact on the Olympics, including the scenario of postponement but not cancellation.

“The IOC is confident that it will have finalized these discussions within the next four weeks, and greatly appreciates the solidarity and partnership of the [National Olympic Committees] and [International Federations] in supporting the athletes and adapting Games planning,” according to an IOC press release on Sunday. “The IOC EB [Executive Board] emphasized that a cancellation of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 would not solve any of the problems or help anybody.”

Bach said there are “many, many challenges” in planning different Olympic scenarios.

“A number of critical venues needed for the Games could potentially not be available anymore,” he wrote in a letter to athletes. “The situations with millions of nights already booked in hotels is extremely difficult to handle, and the international sports calendar for at least 33 Olympic sports would have to be adapted.”

Later Sunday, the Canadian Olympic Committee announced it would not send an Olympic team to the Tokyo Games if held in 2020. The Australian Olympic Committee told its athletes to prepare for an Olympics in summer 2021, but did not say that it would not send an Olympic team if the Games are held in 2020.

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