Organizers finalize new dates for Tokyo Olympics, beginning in July 2021
The new dates of the Tokyo Olympics have been finalized.
Less than a week after announcing that the Games would be postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, organizers decided Monday on a new start date of July 23, 2021. The closing ceremony will be held on Aug. 8.
The Tokyo Olympics had previously been slated to start almost exactly one year earlier, running from July 24 through Aug. 9.
"These new dates give the health authorities and all involved in the organisation of the Games the maximum time to deal with the constantly changing landscape and the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic," the IOC said in a news release.
A postponement of roughly one year had long been thought to be the most logical and likely outcome, given the logistical hurdles involved with the alternatives.
IOC president Thomas Bach had left open the possibility of holding the Games in the spring, which would have featured more favorable weather and allowed Japan to show off its famous cherry blossom trees. But springtime would have presented significant logistical challenges and possibly prevented top athletes in sports like basketball from competing altogether.
The question now is whether a one-year postponement will be long enough.
It is impossible to predict the global trajectory of the coronavirus pandemic, and experts have warned that setting the new dates for the Olympics too early in the future could put them in jeopardy of being postponed again or canceled. A coronavirus vaccine is not expected to be widely available until 12 to 18 months from now.
“The danger is in the absence of a vaccine that if you had a big worldwide event like that, that you could reintroduce — reboot, so to speak — chains of transmission, which would then require you to take the very restrictive measures that we're having to take now to tamp it down,” New York University and Bellevue Hospital epidemiologist Celine Gounder told USA TODAY Sports before the Games were officially postponed.
The finalized dates will bring additional clarity both for athletes, who can now begin to tailor their training schedules to the new dates, and for international federations, which can begin to reschedule conflicting events.
World Athletics, the international governing body that oversees track and field, already announced Monday morning that its 2021 world championships in Eugene, Oregon — which would have overlapped with the new dates for the Olympics — will be postponed to 2022. The new dates for the event have yet to be finalized.
FINA, the international governing body for swimming, has also indicated that it would reschedule its world championships if they overlapped with the Games.
The Tokyo Paralympics were rescheduled to Aug. 24-Sept. 5.
Contact Tom Schad at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.