International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach attends an interview after after the historic decision to postpone the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games due to the coronavirus pandemic, in Lausanne, Switzerland, on March 25, 2020. Picture: DENIS BALIBOUSE / AFP
International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach attends an interview after after the historic decision to postpone the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games due to the coronavirus pandemic, in Lausanne, Switzerland, on March 25, 2020. Picture: DENIS BALIBOUSE / AFP

Athens — The head of the global Olympic movement said on Wednesday that the rescheduled Tokyo Games faced “thousands” of logistical and financial problems but could go ahead before the northern hemisphere summer in 2021.

Though most people have assumed the Games will be held around roughly the same July-August timetable as they were planned for 2020, International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach 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 told a conference call. “This is not restricted just to the summer months. All the options are on the table including the summer [of] 2021.”

The IOC agreed with Japan on Tuesday to the first postponement in the Olympics’ 124-year history due to risks from the coronavirus. It was the last major international sporting event of 2020 to be cancelled, with many questioning why a seemingly inevitable decision took so long to make as the coronavirus epidemic raged around the world.

Athletes were sad but largely relieved, given the disruption to their training. The decision was a huge blow to Japan, which has invested $12bn in the run-up, and presents a huge headache to reorganise logistics, funding and sponsorship.

Bach said he could not guarantee that 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 year.

“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, the village is where the heart of the Games beats,” he said. Bach also warned that the $12bn price tag for the Games would rise further, with additional costs for everyone involved.

“Our mission is to organise Games and make dreams of athletes come true,” he added. “We have no blueprint but we are confident we can put a beautiful jigsaw puzzle together and in the end have wonderful Olympic Games.”

Bach, a German lawyer and former Olympic fencing champion, also said outright cancellation was discussed, even though the IOC had long insisted that this was not an option.

“Of course, cancellation was discussed and considered like all options on the table, but it was very clear from the beginning that cancellation should not be something the IOC would in any way favour,” Bach said.

The IOC has come under heavy criticism in recent weeks from athletes and teams calling for the Games to be postponed and unhappy with the slow decision-making compared with other sports events.

Asked by a German reporter whether he considered resigning over his organisation’s handling of the issue, Bach said “No”. In talks with athletes’ representatives and national Olympic committees last week, no-one opposed the IOC’s stance, he added.

After repeatedly insisting the Games were on as scheduled, the IOC at the weekend announced a month of consultations over possible postponement, before seemingly bowing to global pressure for a faster judgment. The body is due to start talks from Thursday with other global sporting bodies, as moving the gigantic Olympics event has a knock-on effect for many other competitions.

“We are in an unprecedented situation. I guess these postponed Olympic Games will need sacrifices, will need compromises by all stakeholders,” he added.

Reuters

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