After a few weeks of mixed messages, Japan and the International Olympic Committee released a joint statement today announcing the 2020 Olympics would be pushed back to the summer of 2021. This becomes the biggest sporting event to be effected by the COVID-19 outbreak.
From the statement:
The unprecedented and unpredictable spread of the outbreak has seen the situation in the rest of the world deteriorating. Yesterday, the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said that the COVID-19 pandemic is “accelerating”. There are more than 375,000 cases now recorded worldwide and in nearly every country, and their number is growing by the hour.
In the present circumstances and based on the information provided by the WHO today, the IOC President and the Prime Minister of Japan have concluded that the Games of the XXXII Olympiad in Tokyo must be rescheduled to a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021, to safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games and the international community.
The leaders agreed that the Olympic Games in Tokyo could stand as a beacon of hope to the world during these troubled times and that the Olympic flame could become the light at the end of the tunnel in which the world finds itself at present. Therefore, it was agreed that the Olympic flame will stay in Japan. It was also agreed that the Games will keep the name Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.
All seriousness of the situation aside, that the 2020 Tokyo Olympics are still going to be called that despite being held in 2021 is a page straight out of the 14-team Big Ten’s playbook. Or this:
— St. Vincent Chase (@killakow) March 24, 2020
This decision makes obvious sense. Even in (the very desirable and probably unlikely) scenario in which sports can be resumed by August, so much qualifying wouldn’t have been completed that it would have been nearly impossible to send teams. Some nations had already decided not to send athletes this year regardless, and at this point it was hard to imagine a way forward this year.
It does have some wide-ranging media impact, as well, globally and here in the United States. NBC obviously depends heavily on Olympic years, and they’d been ramping up heavily with a focus on 2020. Their Peacock standalone streaming service was set for a wide launch this July, with live and exclusive Olympics content as a main feature aimed at driving early sign-ups. These concerns certainly pale in comparison to a spreading coronavirus pandemic, which is why the IOC and Japan finally decided to postpone.