When will the Olympics now be held?
Among several options considered by the organising committee in recent days has been short-term postponements, by two months or even just one. That possibility has now been rejected, with the joint statement released on Tuesday by the IOC and the Tokyo organising committee saying the event will now commence on “a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021”. Shinzo Abe, Japan’s prime minister, said his favoured option was “to postpone for about a year” but there has been some talk of holding a “Cherry Blossom Games” next spring. There are several obstacles to that happening: according to the Japanese Meteorological Agency, in 2019 the average temperature in Tokyo was a chilly 10.6C in March and 13.6C in April, and the first month in which they reliably exceed an outdoor-sport-friendly 20C is June; more important, the Olympics would struggle to attract star names from the NBA before their season ends in June, from European football before their season ends, presumably in May (with a rescheduled Euro 2020 to follow) and from golf if it is run at the same time as the US Open in June 2021 or the Open in July. World Athletics has already indicated its willingness to move the 2021 world championships, which were to be held in Eugene, Oregon in August.
What will they do about ticket sales?
Since last June tickets have been made available domestically, and to international fans through authorised resellers appointed by national Olympic committees, though they have often been bundled with travel, hotels or hospitality. As of 1pm GMT on Tuesday afternoon most, including Britain’s Team GB Live and CoSport in the USA (CoSport also handles sales in Australia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Jordan, Norway and Sweden), were selling tickets and packages online as normal. Around 5.08m of the total 7.8m tickets have already been sold. The next phase of ticket sales, in which they would be available directly from the 2020 Tokyo Games to customers worldwide, was due to start in May but will now be rescheduled. Refunds are likely to be offered to those who have already bought tickets: when in February the decision was taken to move the marathons to Sapporo, 800km from Tokyo, all existing ticket holders were immediately offered refunds (though depending on the new timing of the Olympics, the marathons may now be moved back to Tokyo as originally planned).
What are the financial and logistical implications of the decision?
The total cost of the Tokyo Olympics has been put at almost £10bn and there were projections that an outright cancellation could cause Japan’s GDP to shrink by 1.5%. Clearly, this potential impact has been mitigated by the postponement, but it will still cause major disruption both to finances and planning. Millions of hotel bookings will have to be rearranged and athletes’ accommodation, much of which is contracted to fall into private hands in August this year, will either have to be requisitioned or rearranged.
Why can’t they rename it Tokyo 2021?
So much has already been designed, printed or manufactured with the existing logo on – including around 5,000 medals, made in part from recycled consumer electronics – that a full-on renaming would be prohibitively wasteful and expensive.
What of the Olympic flame?
The flame was lit in a scaled-down ceremony in Olympia, Greece, on 12 March, and arrived in Japan last Friday. It is on display in Fukushima prefecture, one of the areas most affected by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, and had been due to depart on Thursday for the start of a 121-day torch relay around Japan. The relay is now very likely to be postponed, but Tuesday’s announcement specified that the flame would remain in Japan. Quite where it will burn until the Games are rescheduled remains to be seen, with an official telling the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun only that they were “making adjustments to how the torch relay will be done”.