Back in March 2020, the government of Japan and the International Olympics Committee released a statement that the 2020 Summer Games was postponed until the summer of 2021. Now, though, it looks like that event may not happen in 2021 at all. There had been rumors building for quite a while that Japan might still not be able to host the event amidst the raging coronavirus pandemic, but those caught fire Thursday with a Times (London, UK) report that the Japanese government appears set to cancel the 2021 plans and try to push for a 2032 host slot:
The Japanese government has privately concluded that the Tokyo Olympics will have to be cancelled because of the coronavirus, and the focus is now on securing the Games for the city in the next available year, 2032 https://t.co/bsuB9wMt30
— The Times (@thetimes) January 21, 2021
Here are some notable quotes from that piece, written by Richard Lloyd Parry in Tokyo:
The Japanese government has privately concluded that the Tokyo Olympics will have to be cancelled because of the coronavirus, and the focus is now on securing the Games for the city in the next available year, 2032.
According to a senior member of the ruling coalition, there is agreement that the Games, already postponed a year, are doomed. The aim now is to find a face-saving way of announcing the cancellation that leaves open the possibility of Tokyo playing host at a later date. “No one wants to be the first to say so but the consensus is that it’s too difficult,” the source said. “Personally, I don’t think it’s going to happen.”
None of this is official at this point, of course, and it’s significant that national sports organizations like the U.S. Olympic Committee are saying they haven’t heard this at this point. And a cancellation here would be a huge upending for all of the sports that have tried to establish qualification procedures for a 2021 Games. But the Times‘ sources here certainly seem to be well-placed, and this is certainly a boost in prominence over the reports that had emerged before this.
And if this cancellation does happen, and if the Summer Olympics aren’t moved elsewhere (it would certainly seem to be challenging to do that on short notice in the middle of a pandemic, but we’ve seen leagues contort themselves to a lot over the last year), that’s a huge blow for U.S. Olympic broadcaster NBC (which provides a significant portion of the International Olympic Committee’s funding) in particular. The Olympics are such a huge focus for NBC, and moving them even a year was already a big problem for them. Moving those Games yet again could be even more disastrous. We’ll see what happens with the planned 2021 Games.