The Choice to Delay the Tokyo 2020 Olympics


Lauren Raziano

The Choice to Delay the Tokyo 2020 Olympics by Simi Edeki Graphic By: Lauren Raziano

Simi Edeki ‘22

COVID-19 has shaken up the world of sports. Sporting leagues and events around the globe have been canceled or indefinitely postponed due to the pandemic. The Olympics were not immune. After weeks of delaying the inevitable, on March 24th the International Olympics Committee (IOC) announced that the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympics would be postponed to the summer of 2021. This is the first time the Olympics have been postponed or canceled by anything other than war. The 1916 Summer Olympics in Berlin were canceled due to the outbreak of World War I. The 1940 Summer and Winter Games along with the 1944 Summer and Winter Games were canceled due to World War II.


The opening ceremony was scheduled to start on July 24th. In a statement, the IOC said, “The Games of the XXXII Olympiad in Tokyo must be rescheduled to a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021, to safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games and the international community.”


For weeks before the announcement, Japan tried to deny that the Olympics would be affected by the outbreak. On March 12th, the IOC said that they remain “absolutely in line with our Japanese hosts in our commitment to delivering safe Olympic Games in July.” Many countries called for the games to be postponed, citing the potential catastrophe that could occur if millions from around the world traveled to Japan and packed large stadiums. Days before the official announcement, the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee sent a poll to 4,000 hopefuls of the U.S. Olympics. Approximately 70% percent of respondents stated they felt the Games would not be fair if held as originally planned. Furthermore, Canada and Australia both announced that they would not send their athletes to the Tokyo Olympics if they were held this summer. 


Postponing the Games will have a significant economic impact in Japan. In total, the postponement is expected to increase the Games’ cost by $2.7 Billion for Japan, according to estimates by the Tokyo organizing committee. This is in addition to the estimated $7.3 to $22.3 billion Japan has already spent on the Games. The already declining Japanese economy will worsen due to the lack of tourism and travel expected from the Olympics. The Tokyo organizers will have to determine new leases on venues and pay for an additional year of maintenance at arenas. Also, many apartments at the athletes’ village have been sold off for use after the 2020 Games, so those contacts will have to be renegotiated. 


The new opening date for the 2020 Games is July 23rd, 2021, followed by the Paralympics on August 24th. However, there is doubt regarding whether or not the world will be ready by next summer. “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,” Tokyo organizing committee CEO Toshiro Muto said. “We’re certainly are not in a position to give you a clear answer.” As of April 15th, there are more than 2 million COVID-19 cases worldwide. With a vaccine is not estimated to be available for another 12 to 18 months, the future of Tokyo 2020 remains uncertain.