Tokyo Games likely to start in July 2021

Tokyo Games likely to start in July 2021

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Japanese organisers are in final stages of talks to set the opening date for the Tokyo Games in July next year, Japanese media said yesterday.

The Tokyo event, postponed last week due to the coronavirus pandemic, will most likely have its opening ceremony in 2021 on July 23 and closing ceremony on August 8, each a day earlier on the calendar than the original 2020 plan, public broadcaster NHK said yesterday, citing unnamed sources.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced a delay of about one year on Tuesday after a call with IOC president Thomas Bach.

It is the first postponement in the 124-year history of the modern Olympics, although several — including the 1940 Tokyo Games — were cancelled due to war.

The delay is a huge blow to Japan, which has invested $12 billion in the run-up, although financial markets were initially cheered by the decision, as some investors had anticipated cancellation.

Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said yesterday that the government, now compiling economic-stimulus measures that Abe said will be the biggest ever, will take into account that the Olympic delay will push back several trillions of yen of demand to next year.

“If demand is being pushed back until next year, that means the same amount of demand will evaporate this year. We’ll take this into account” in compiling the stimulus package, Nishimura said.

For his part, Sebastian Coe says the decision to postpone the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics has saved athletes from mental turmoil.

“We didn’t want to have the athletes in a position where they were countering government advice, maybe even breaking the law,” the World Athletics president told TalkSport.

“And of course in the back of their minds was always that concern, it wasn’t just their own training programme, but that they ran the risk of infecting themselves, their families, their kids, grandparents or parents.

"We just wanted to take them out of that mental turmoil as quickly as we possibly could.

“We’re no different from everyone else out there but I think we just concluded that sport, on this occasion, had to take a back seat.”

Meanwhile, UK Athletics has called on West Ham to waive their tenancy rights for the London Stadium if there is the chance to stage the Anniversary Games this summer.

The event is scheduled for July 4 and 5, when any extended Premier League season could still be ongoing — giving West Ham first refusal under the terms of their tenancy.

New UKA chief executive Joanna Coates told the Sunday Telegraph, “In these unprecedented times, why is it football that always comes out — with all the money that slushes around in football — as the one that doesn’t suffer? It just doesn’t seem right to me.

“We’ve got athletes that have trained for an Olympic Games that they can’t now go on to and we’re trying our best to make sure that they still have some form of competition.

“If it’s not safe for them then that’s fine. But it doesn’t seem wholly fair that football can have carte blanche — because of the money involved and broadcast deals — and push every sport out.”

- Reuters

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