2020 Tokyo Olympics Moved to 2021

After much deliberation, the IOC decided to postpone the Games until next year


Illustration by Madeline Sisk

Up until recently, the whole world was looking forward to the event that would bring over 200 countries together. Athletes who had worked their whole lives for this summer were training, and fans were preparing to see the best of the best represent their nations. But then the novel coronavirus spread on a worldwide scale and forced a change of plans that caused weeks of uncertainty.

On Tuesday, March 17, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and its president, Thomas Bach, said that the Games would still be held in 2020 and that athletes should continue preparing as planned.

On March 19, Bach said in an interview with the The New York Times that the Committee was “considering different scenarios,” but that “cancellation [was] not on the agenda.” The Committee’s executive board confirmed that postponement was under consideration on March 22.

On March 23, due to risks associated with the virus, both the Canadian and Australian governments issued statements saying that they would not send athletes to the 2020 Olympic Games if they were to take place on time, calling for the events to be pushed back to 2021. The US Olympic and Paralympic Committee also issued a statement on March 23 calling for the Games to be rescheduled. The decision came after the CEO of USA Swimming sent the Committee a letter urging them to campaign for postponement.

Finally, amid cancellation of major sports seasons and similar calls to postpone the Games, the International Olympic Committee and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan announced the joint decision to move the events back to 2021.

Athletes everywhere, though understandably disappointed about the changed timeline, seem to agree with the decision. Australian athletes were told by their committee that they would not be able to train due to efforts to contain COVID-19, and the British Olympic Association said that postponement was the only option they could support.

According to a poll released by the Athletics Association, a labor group for track and field athletes across the globe, nearly 80 percent of the 4,000 athletes from six continents who responded said that the Games should be postponed, and 87 percent said that the outbreak had negatively affected their training.

According to the IOC’s statement, “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.”

Bach and the Tokyo organizers announced on Monday, March 30 that the Games would take place from July 23 to Aug. 8, 2021, with the Paralympic Games taking place from Aug. 24 to Sept. 5 of that year.

The Olympics have only been cancelled three times, all during war, and this is the first time that they have been moved to a later date.