Tokyo 2020

Tokyo Games reset: the Olympic postponement to 2021, what comes next

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The Tokyo Olympics were supposed to open on Friday. The coronavirus pandemic changed all that, causing the first postponement of a modern Olympics (in this case, by one year). A Q&A on what changed in 2020 and what to look for in 2021 …

What led to the Olympic postponement?
As the coronavirus outbreak intensified in February, the IOC created a task force with Tokyo Olympic organizers, the Japanese government and the World Health Organization (WHO). On March 22, the IOC announced it would take up to four weeks to assess the pandemic’s impact on the Olympics, including a possible postponement. After an emergency IOC Executive Board meeting, the IOC, Japanese government and Tokyo Olympic organizers agreed on a postponement to 2021 on March 24. IOC President Thomas Bach cited information from the WHO about the virus’ global spread and an increase in travel restrictions.

Then, on March 30, the new Olympic and Paralympic dates were announced: July 23-Aug. 8, 2021 for the Olympics and Aug. 24-Sept. 5 for the Paralympics, each a 364-day postponement.

What are the plans for 2021?
Organizers are preparing different scenarios for the Games, including more than 200 possible ways of simplifying them, while noting it’s impossible to know what the world will look like a year from now. “We have to consider already now whether there will be measures necessary for access to Japan, for instance,” Bach told NBC Olympic primetime host Mike Tirico in May. “Do we maybe need quarantine for athletes from different countries or for all the athletes from all the countries? How can this be managed? Do we need special measures for access to the venues? How many people can access the venues? This is part of this mammoth task.”

On April 28, the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee president said the Games will be canceled if they can’t be held in 2021.

“[Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo] made it very clear from the beginning that summer 2021 is the last option,” Bach told the BBC in May. “Quite frankly, I have some understanding for this because you cannot forever employ 3,000 or 5,000 people in an organizing committee. You cannot every year change the entire sports schedule worldwide of all the major federations. You cannot have the athletes being in uncertainty. You cannot have so much overlapping for the future Olympic Games.”

MORE: Tokyo Olympics schedule | Team USA roster

How are athletes impacted?
Nearly all Olympic sports competition shut down by late March. Some have returned in socially distanced forms without fans, including the PGA Tour, the AVP (beach volleyball’s domestic tour) and track and field. U.S. Olympic Trials in gymnastics, swimming and track and field were postponed to June 2021.

Given the U.S. Olympic team will be more than 500 athletes (out of more than 10,000 Olympians worldwide), there will be those who would have made an Olympic team in 2020 who do not make it in 2021. About 74 percent of all Summer Olympians competed in just one Games, so even just a one-year delay is very significant.

Can older athletes hang on? Think Kerri Walsh Jennings in beach volleyball, Ryan Lochte in swimming and Allyson Felix in track and field. We already know it will create opportunities for athletes who had no designs on a 2020 Olympics, such as gymnasts who were too young to qualify by one year. Now, a group of U.S. women who turn 16 in 2021 can dream of Tokyo rather than waiting for Paris 2024. At least one U.S. female gymnast who turned 16 or younger in the Olympic year made each of the last 10 Olympic teams.

What happens next?
Tokyo Olympic organizers will spend the rest of 2020 developing core countermeasures for the coronavirus before implementing them in 2021. Specifics haven’t been announced.

A few key other storylines: The IOC is asking for athlete feedback on a longtime Olympic Charter rule restricting athlete demonstrations and protests on the field of play. The NBA’s to-be-announced 2020-21 season schedule — specifically how late the season and playoffs run — could dictate whether its stars participate in the Olympics. Christian Coleman, the world’s fastest man since Usain Bolt‘s retirement, is provisionally suspended for missing drug tests and could receive a ban through the Tokyo Games.

OlympicTalk will continue to provide the latest coverage of Olympic preparations and the resumption of Olympic sports competitions, including broadcast schedules for events on NBC Sports and Olympic Channel.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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MORE: An Olympic dynasty encounters the coronavirus

Tokyo Olympics master competition schedule for 2021

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The Olympic master competition schedule for the Tokyo Games, postponed to 2021, is available here.

The Olympic Opening Ceremony was originally scheduled for July 24, 2020, but the Games were pushed back to July 23, 2021, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The schedule largely remains the same. Competition begins with softball and women’s soccer two days before the Opening Ceremony and concludes with the men’s marathon, among other events, on the day of the Closing Ceremony.

Records of 41 sports and 339 medal events (33 more events than in Rio) take place from July 23-Aug. 8 at the site of the 1964 Games.

The first events — preliminary softball games — will be July 21, a Wednesday morning, in Fukushima, an area hit by a 2011 earthquake and nuclear disaster, or Tuesday night in the U.S. with the time difference. July 21 is the 25th anniversary of the first Olympic softball game.

The first medal event is the women’s 10m air rifle, as it was in Rio, where then-rising West Virginia sophomore Ginny Thrasher stunned for gold. Thrasher failed to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team in that event but can still qualify in another rifle event.

The complete event-by-event session schedule organized by sport is available here.

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Tokyo Olympic schedule remains the same, venues lined up

Tokyo Olympics Delayed
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TOKYO — The 42 venues for next year’s Tokyo Olympics have been secured and the competition schedule will remain almost identical to the one that would have been used this year.

The Athletes Village and the main press center have also been lined up for 2021.

That was the message delivered Friday to IOC members by Tokyo organizing committee President Yoshiro Mori and CEO Toshiro Muto.

They spoke from Japan to a full session of the IOC membership meeting online.

Estimates in Japan say the delay will cost $2 billion to $6 billion, with Japanese taxpayers picking up the bills. Olympic officials have not given any overall cost estimate.

The Opening Ceremony for the Olympics will be on July 23, 2021. However, women’s softball and soccer will open on July 21, men’s soccer on July 22, and archery and rowing on July 23.

On July 24, the first full day after the opening, the first medal event will be the women’s 10m air rifle.

Unlike the large, public celebration of a year ago, local organizers at the last minute have put together a small, non-public event for Thursday inside the new national stadium to mark one year to go. Organizers have teased a possible appearance of the Olympic Flame.

IOC President Thomas Bach said earlier this week that “multiple scenarios” are being thought about to pull off the Olympics next year. He said empty stadiums were an option, but not a preference, in the long list of possibilities.

“It includes all different countermeasures: quarantine, you name it,” he said. “But, Olympic Games behind closed doors is clearly something we do not want. We are working for a solution of the Olympic Games which, on the one hand is safeguarding the health of all the participants, and on the other hand is also reflecting the Olympic spirit.”

MORE: IOC Athletes’ Commission to draft proposal on athlete protests

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