"In order to safeguard the athletes, we have decided to postpone the Olympic Games to 2021, with an aim to have it in the summer of 2021," said International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach while making the official decision to postpone the Olympics Games for the first time in history.
The decision was made following a telephone conversation between Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the IOC President, with Abe proposing the postponement due to the coronavirus outbreak the world is currently dealing with. The Games were to start on 24 July later this summer but now have been moved ‘until the summer of 2021’. They, however, will be called the 2020 Tokyo Olympics only.
The Olympics, as we know, have been cancelled 3 times in the past all due to World Wars but never has it been postponed. So, as the stakeholders have now made the biggest of decisions, the next few weeks are going to be about finding answers to a lot of problems.
""We are looking at unprecedented challenges. This is the first time ever that a postponement has been done in history. The Olympics are the most complex event on the planet, to get together 11,000 athletes in one place."" - Thomas Bach, IOC President
So? What are these problems
Firstly, The Date!
Thirty three Olympic sports have one event or another planned in 2021. Most of them in the summer and thus, most of them will now have to make way for the Olympics. In fact, the ‘Big 3’ events in the Olympics, track and field, gymnastics and swimming, all have World Championships scheduled for 2021.
The Swimming World Champioships are in Japan only from 16 July to 1 August. The athletics championships are from 6 August to 15 August and the Gymnastics World Championships are from 18 October to 24 October.
Then there is also the European football championships that have already called dibs on the 11 June to 11 July window after getting postponed from 2020.
Not only is finding a window tough, athlete fatigue is also to be accounted for. One can’t expect sportspersons to participate in an Olympic Games and also a World Championship in a matter of weeks.
While the newly built 1.5 billion dollar stadium in Tokyo will be there next year as well, there are a lot of complications the IOC will have to deal with regarding venues and hotels that have been contracted for the two weeks of the Games this year. It can all be worked around but will come at a cost that will be borne by the Japan Olympic committee, not the IOC.
In their official press release on 22 March, the IOC said, “A number of critical venues needed for the Games could potentially not be available anymore. The situations with millions of nights already booked in hotels is extremely difficult to handle. These are just a few of many, many more challenges.”
The athletes village comprises over 5,600 newly-built apartments that are to be restructured and sold off after the Paralympic Games in September. Twenty five percent of the homes have already been sold and are estimated to be costing around $1 million. Now, those contracts will need to be worked around.
Japan has already spent $25 billion on the Games and according to local websites, the move will cost them an added $6 billion dollars.
And Finally, The Athletes
Over 11,000 athletes are supposed to descend on Tokyo for the Olympic Games, all of whom have planned their lives so their form can be at its peak in July of 2020.
Now the plan changes and things are postponed by a year.
For stars like Kevin Durant and Andy Murray, who are dealing with injuries, this is a great thing, giving them time to recover.
But for a majority this is a big blow to their careers. Like MC Mary Kom who will be 38 by the time the Games roll in or for 6-time Olympic gold medallist sprinter Allyson Felix. The latter has already said she’s ready for the postponed games, even though she will be 35 by next summer — because well, if anyone can defy age, its these women.
Leander Paes is in the middle of his ‘one last roar’ season at the end of which he announced he will retire.
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