Postponed Olympics to open July 23, 2021

 Postponed Olympics to open July 23, 2021

Athletes and media in Japan reacted to the postponement of this year’s Olympics with disappointment, but expressed relief the Games would not be cancelled

TOKYO, Japan, Mar 30 – The Tokyo Olympics will begin on July 23 next year, organisers said on Monday, after the coronavirus forced the historic decision to postpone the Games until 2021.

“The Olympics will be held from July 23 to August 8,
2021. The Paralympics will be held from August 24 to September 5,” Tokyo
2020 chief Yoshiro Mori told reporters at a hastily arranged news conference.

Only hours earlier, Mori had said he expected a decision
from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) during the course of the week.

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics were due to open on July 24 this
year and run for 16 days, but the coronavirus pandemic forced the first
peace-time postponement of the Games.

The IOC and Japan had for weeks insisted the show could go
on but the rapid spread of COVID-19 prompted growing disquiet among athletes
and sporting federations.

The Olympics was the highest-profile sporting casualty of
the coronavirus that has wiped out fixtures worldwide and all but halted
professional sport.

There was some speculation that Japanese organisers could
take advantage of the blank canvas to shift the Games to spring, avoiding the
heat of the Tokyo summer that had been their main concern before coronavirus
struck.

Due to the heat, the marathon has been moved to Sapporo, a
city some 800 kilometres (500 miles) to the north of Tokyo where the weather is
cooler even at the height of summer.

The postponement has handed organisers the
“unprecedented” task of rearranging an event seven years in the
making, and Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto has admitted the additional costs will
be “massive”.

According to the latest budget, the Games were due to cost
$12.6 billion, shared between the organising committee, the government of Japan
and Tokyo city.

However, that number is hotly contested with a
much-publicised government audit suggesting the central government was spending
several times that amount — on items organisers claim are only tangentially
related to the Olympics.

– ‘Mankind’s victory’ –

The postponement affects every aspect of the organisation —
hotels, ticketing, venues and transport being among the major headaches.

Hotels have had to cancel bookings, dealing them a bitter
blow at a time when tourism is already being hammered by the coronavirus.

Some venues that had booked events years in advance will
potentially have to scrap them to make way for the rescheduled Olympics and
there is still uncertainty about whether ticket-holders will get refunded.

Another thorny issue is the athletes’ village, which was due
to be converted into luxury apartments after the Games, some of which have already
found buyers.

The Japanese government had touted the Games as the
“Recovery Olympics”, designed to show how the country had bounced
back from the 2011 triple disaster of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear
meltdown in the northeastern Fukushima region.

The Games are now being billed as the expression of
humanity’s triumph over the coronavirus.

“We are embarking on an unprecedented challenge,”
said Mori earlier Monday.

“But I believe it is the mission of the Tokyo 2020
organising committee to hold the Olympics and Paralympics next year as a proof
of mankind’s victory” against the virus.

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