Spring Olympics a possibility

ATHENS • International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach has said the rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Games faced “thousands” of logistical and financial problems, while they could also go ahead before summer next year.

Though most people have assumed the Games will be held around roughly the same July-August timetable as they were planned for this year, he said earlier dates in 2021 were possible.

“The agreement is that we want to organise these Games at the latest in the summer 2021,” he said yesterday following a conference call with 33 international sports federations. “This is not restricted just to the summer months. All the options are on the table including the summer 2021.

“After consulting them, we also have to take into account the sporting calendar around the Olympic and many, many other issues.

“We should come to a solution as soon as possible, but first priority should be to really to take the input of all stakeholders into account.”

Bach, a 66-year-old German lawyer and former Olympic fencing champion, also said that a task force called Here We Go had been set up, with members drawn from the IOC’s coordination commission and the Tokyo 2020 organising committee. One of its many tasks is to work towards determining a new date for next year.

Tuesday’s postponement decision, due to the coronavirus pandemic, was a huge blow to Japan, which has invested upwards of US$12 billion (S$17.4 billion). It has also given the host a massive headache to reorganise logistics, funding and sponsorship.

Bach said he could not guarantee all elements of the Games would remain as initially planned.

For example, he did not know what would happen with the athletes’ village, where apartments were set to be sold after the Games.

“This is one of the many thousands of questions this task force will have to address. We hope and we will do whatever we can so that there is an Olympic village,” he said.

“Our mission is to organise Games and make dreams of athletes come true. We are confident we can put a beautiful jigsaw puzzle together and, in the end, have a wonderful Olympic Games.”

He added that the IOC is due to start talks from today with other global bodies because moving the gigantic Games has a knock-on effect for many other competitions.

Swimming’s 2021 world championships set for July 16-Aug 1 in Fukuoka in southern Japan look likely to be the first casualty, should the Olympics be held in the summer. The 2021 World Athletics Championships – scheduled for Oregon in the United States, from Aug 6 to 15 – are also certain to be postponed after organisers said they would switch it to accommodate the rescheduled Games.

Two major football events due this year had already been moved to next year before the Games’ announcement, with decisions last week to delay the European Championship and South America’s Copa America by a year. The two continental competitions will each now start on June 11 and end on July 11.

Other 2021 events featuring Olympians that will be affected by the Games postponement include the world boxing championships in New Delhi, the EuroHockey championship in the Netherlands in August, and the European basketball championship in September.

Meanwhile, the United States’ Olympic qualifying trials for athletics, swimming and gymnastics have been postponed for this year, officials said on Tuesday.

Sources told Reuters new dates could not be set until the IOC determines the 2021 dates for the rescheduled Games.

Australian athletes who have already qualified will be assured of their spots next year, said the country’s Olympic committee.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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