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The Summer Olympics that had been scheduled to begin in Tokyo this July will instead take place almost exactly one year later, the International Olympic Committee says. The games were postponed last week due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 will be celebrated from 23 July to 8 August 2021,” the IOC said Monday. It added that the Paralympic Games will follow, running from Aug. 24 to Sept. 5.
The rescheduling due to the coronavirus came as a seismic shift to athletes worldwide and organizers in Japan, all of whom had been working for months and years to be ready for the Olympics. Now they’ll need to reset their timetables one year forward. But many in the Olympic community have welcomed the delay, saying it provided clarity after weeks of growing uncertainty.
“With this announcement, I am confident that, working together with the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, the Japanese Government and all our stakeholders, we can master this unprecedented challenge,” IOC President Thomas Bach said. “Humankind currently finds itself in a dark tunnel. These Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 can be a light at the end of this tunnel.”
The delay has disrupted the complex qualifying process for athletes. The coronavirus pandemic has also ruined the plans of thousands of people who had signed on as volunteers to work at the Olympics, along with thousands more who had hoped to attend the games this summer.
“A certain amount of time is required for the selection and qualification of athletes and for their training and preparation,” Tokyo 2020 President Mori Yoshirō, said, “and the consensus was that staging the rescheduled Games during the summer vacation in Japan would be preferable.”
Despite the rescheduling, the next Olympics will still be known as the Tokyo 2020 games, the IOC said last week.
The Olympic flame — which recently reached Japan after being lit in Greece — will remain in Japan until the postponed games are held.
This year marks the first time an Olympics has been postponed; the games were suspended three times due to World War I and World War II.