It’s official, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will not be taking place in 2020. Still, the Olympics will be moved to summer 2021 at the latest.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Prime Minister Abe Shinzo reached the decision on Tuesday. The unprecedented move comes as the world deals with the COVID-19 pandemic that has locked down cities and fractured nations’ health care systems.
The games’ postponement had already been hinted after news outlets quoted members of the IOC and the Japanese government reassuring that the Olympics would take place as planned. The first news that signaled a change of heart came on Monday, March 23, when Prime Minister Abe Shinzo publicly said that the Olympics could not be held under the current circumstances, for the first time implying that the Olympics would be postponed.
Before the decision to postponed the Olympics, Canada and Australia had already announced that they would withdraw from the games, the Canadian Olympic Committee mentioning that they wouldn’t be sending any athletes unless the games were postponed until 2021.
It is unclear how much more money Tokyo will have to invest to host the Olympic Games in 2021, starting with changing the logos and advertisements to remove the year 2020 and add the year 2021. However, postponing the games was the best-case scenario for Tokyo, Japan, athletes, spectators, and the IOC.
Cancelling the Olympics would have caused immeasurable damage to an already frail Japanese economy, while postponing them would grant Tokyo the opportunity to see the city turn a profit.
When done right, the Olympics can be a blessing. Some examples include the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, which helped show the world what China had become and its emergence as a true economic power, and the 1964 Tokyo Summer Olympics, which helped reshape Japan’s image, now reborn from the aftermath of World War II as a pacific and technologically advanced country.
When done wrong, the Olympics can be a curse, making the host cities face debts for years and even decades. Montreal famously hosted the Olympics in 1976 with overrun costs of 720% that made the city face debts for the following 30 years; the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, forever marked with the stench of corruption, reportedly cost 55 billion dollars (with estimates going as far as 70 billion) while never making Sochi the resort Vladimir Putin had wanted it to become.
The news could also prove beneficial since Tokyo had been encountering several issues regarding the 2020 Olympics, most notably a shortage of hotel rooms. With an additional year to get things right, Tokyo can prepare even a better Summer Olympics that will celebrate the Olympic spirit and the hopeful end of the coronavirus pandemic.