The 2020 Olympic Games will be held an entire year later than planned, with the opening ceremony now scheduled for July 23, 2021, and the closing ceremony on Aug. 8, organizers in Tokyo announced Monday.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last week said he and the International Olympic Committee agreed to postpone the games in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, “to a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021.” This year’s games had been scheduled to begin July 24 and end on Aug. 9.
Next year’s games will still be called the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020, Abe and IOC president Thomas Bach said last week. The Paralympics will be held from Aug. 24, 2021, to Sept. 5.
Officials had considered rescheduling the games for next spring, which would have corresponded with the blooming of Japan’s iconic cherry blossoms. But waiting until summer would prevent scheduling conflicts with other major sports events, help “accelerate our progress” in preparing for the new schedule and give athletes more time to qualify, Tokyo organizing committee president Yoshiro Mori told reporters.
The new dates also are likely to raise concerns about athletic competitions during the height of Japan’s summer heat and humidity.
For weeks, Olympics officials resisted postponing the games as the pandemic worsened and officials around the world implemented measures to slow the spread of infections and hospitalizations.
The postponement became inevitable as more public health officials warned against large-scale events, and an increasing number of countries began restricting travel, shutting nonessential businesses and urging residents to stay at home.
By last week, several countries’ Olympic committees, including that of the United States, called for a postponement, and some threatened to withdraw their athletes unless the games were postponed.
This is the first time the Olympic Games have been postponed since the modern version began in 1896. The...