25.03.2020 Europe

Tokyo 2020 Olympics starts road to recovery in 2021

By Paul Myers - RFI
Tokyo 2020 Olympics starts road to recovery in 2021
LISTEN MAR 25, 2020

The task of reconfiguring the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games for 2021 began on Wednesday with Olympics supremo Thomas Bach calling for a spirit of sacrifice and compromise.

Bach, who heads the International Olympic Committee, and Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, on Tuesday jointly announced a 12-month postponement of the event as the world buckles under the coronavirus.

Up until last weekend both men had insisted publically that the games would proceed as scheduled between 24 July and 9 August despite the sprialling rates of deaths and infections from the coronavirus pandemid.

But after the World Health Organization declared that the pandemic was accelerating and the withdrawal of athletes from Canada and Australia, organisers conceded the first postponement of the games in its 124 year history.

Sports federations, such as world football's governing body Fifa, and World Athletics – which runs global track and field competitions, hailed the decision and said they would work with the IOC to help it reschedule.

"This is not restricted just to the summer months," Bach said. "All the options are on the table, before and including the summer of 2021."

In the immediate aftermath of Tuesday's decision, Japanese organisers and their IOC counterparts established a task force – anointed Here We Go – to work out new timetables and where they might house the 11,000 athletes.

The accommodation in the Olympic village was due to be revamped for private housing after the games ended in August.

Bach said securing that site for next year would be among the task force's goals. “I don't envy them,” he added. “It will be one of the thousand things they have to do.

“The heart of the games is usually beating in the Olympic village. But we are at an unprecedented situation and challenge. These postponed games will need sacrifice and compromises by all the stakeholders. We have to find the best possible solutions under the circumstances we are living in.”

Bach, who has headed the IOC since 2013 said he had not considered resigning over his handling of the process towards postponement. The German has come under fire for not listening to athletes' groups who have been calling for postponement as training venues were closed in lockdowns throughout the world.

In an attempt to defelect criticism, Bach said that rescheduling the event needed the agreement of both the IOC and the Japanese government which has reframed the event as the "Recovery Games".

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