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Olympic postponement hardly makes Tokyo 2021 a sure thing

The Tokyo Olympics have been postponed until next year, but what if that's not long enough to get past COVID-19?

The IOC and Tokyo 2020 organizers announced on March 24 that the Summer Olympics would be postponed for a year, and a week later, the official dates were set for July 23 to August 8, 2021. The sporting world breathed a collective sigh of relief when the call to postpone was made official, but the COVID-19 forecast is just a guessing game, and no one can know for sure if the pandemic will be behind us in a year’s time. A report from The Japan Times suggests that, if the coronavirus persists over the next 12 months, Tokyo organizers don’t have a backup plan for the 2021 Games.

Tokyo 2021: TBD

There’s still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the Olympics, and that won’t go away until the pandemic is officially resolved. The Japan Times covered a press conference held by Tokyo organizing committee CEO Toshirō Mutō, who addressed these uncertainties.

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“I don’t think anyone would be able to say if it is going to be possible to get it under control by next July or not,” Mutō said.

2020 Olympics
Design for the 2020 Olympic stadium in Tokyo. Photo: Japan Sports Council
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Last week, Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, declared a state of emergency last week in the hopes of flattening the COVID-19 curve in Japan. Even if Japan gets the outbreak under control within their own borders, the Olympics could still be affected if the situation in the rest of the world doesn’t improve as well. Even so, Tokyo organizers are not preparing a Plan B (Plan C, really) for next summer.

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“Rather than think about alternative plans, we should put in all of our effort,” Mutō said. “Mankind should bring together all of its technology and wisdom to work hard so they can develop treatments, medicines and vaccines.”

Photo: Twitter/Saudi24N

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Any other options?

A cancellation would be a very difficult decision to make, but if the pandemic is still impacting the world next summer, that might be the only reasonable option for the IOC and Tokyo organizing committee. From there, athletes and fans would just have to wait for Paris 2024 and hope for things to return to normal.