Postponing Tokyo 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic will have been a hard pill to swallow for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) but it was really the easy bit compared to what must come next.
Reorganising the planet's biggest sporting event at such short notice will be a herculean task and IOC president Thomas Bach has warned that a new schedule will need “sacrifices and will need compromises” from the myriad stakeholders involved.
Speaking in a conference call with journalists on Wednesday morning, Bach described the Olympic programme as a “beautiful jigsaw puzzle” but it is one that will require many hands with competing interests to be put together.
The IOC will speak with the 33 different international sports federations on Thursday as part of that process. Add in the fact that there are over 200 countries involved, plus TV rights holders, commercial sponsors and the Japanese authorities and the complicated nature of it all is evident.
“We should come to a solution as soon as possible, but first priority should be the quality of the decision, to really be able to take the input of all stakeholders into account,” said Bach who is hoping to reach a decision “as soon as possible”.
The summer of 2021 stands apart as the most obvious option given it would avoid the major football seasons around the world and the American football campaign Stateside where so much of the IOC's TV revenue is generated.
That would still require a number of other pre-existing sports events to be shifted in order to accommodate the Olympics' new slot, although the World Athletic Championship organisers in Oregon have already declared their willingness to move over.
A task force entitled 'Here We Go' has been formed to examine all the intricacies involved. Bach admits that finding the right two-week slot in the calendar next year is a “challenging question” but, difficult or not, a way must be found.
The 2020 Games were officially postponed on Tuesday after a teleconference call between Bach and the Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe. The announcement was greeted with a mixture of sadness and relief by athletes around the world who had been left in limbo until then.