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Monument of Olympic Rings at the Odaiba Marine Park, Tokyo, where the swimming
and triathlon competitions will be held




Miraitowa, Tokyo 2020 mascot

OFFICIAL NAME: Games of the XXXII Olympiad
Tokyo 2020 (東京2020)
INCLUSIVE DATES: 23 July – 8 August 2021 (Postponed from the original dates of  24 July – 9 August 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.)
VENUE: Tokyo. Twenty-eight of the 33 competition venues in Tokyo are within 8 kilometers/5 miles of the Olympic Village. The competitions will be held largely behind closed doors.
SPECTATORS: no spectators permitted under the state of emergency


Despite being rescheduled for 2021, the event retains the Tokyo 2020 name for marketing and branding purposes. This is the first time the Olympic Games have been postponed and rescheduled, rather than canceled.

All Nippon Airways Boeing 777, wearing a special livery for Olympics 2020, arriving at Haneda International Airport in Tokyo

Tokyo 2020 marks the second time Japan has hosted the Summer Olympic Games, the first also in Tokyo in 1964, making it the only Asian city so far to host the Summer Games twice.


Host city selection

Tokyo, applicant city in 2013

Using an exhaustive ballot system on 7 September 2013 in Buenos Aires, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) voted to select the host city of the 2020 Summer Olympics. After none of the candidate cities garnered more than 50% of the votes during the first round,  a run-off was held. At the final count, Tokyo won in a head-to-head contest with Istanbul. (In the first round, Madrid and Istanbul were tied for second place.)

Shibuya Scramble Crossing, Tokyo, featured in the Summer Olympics 2016 closing ceremony in Rio de Janeiro to promote Tokyo 2020



Postponement to 2021

At the height of the pandemic, on 2 March 2020, the Tokyo Organizing Committee (TOCOG) had confirmed that preparations for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics were “continuing as planned”. Hard on the heels of that confirmation was the IOC’s own confirmation. Whereupon both Canada and Australia said they would withdraw from the Games if these were not postponed by a year. At the same time, the then Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe stated he would support a postponement on the grounds that ensuring athlete safety was “paramount”.

Olympic monument, IOC HQ, Lausanne, Switzerland: On 24 March 2020, the ICO and TOCOG announced postponement of the Games to no later than summer 2021

“Light at the end of the tunnel”

On 24 March 2020, the IOC and TOCOG announced that the 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympics would be rescheduled to a date “beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021”. They stated that the Games 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.” However, for continuity and marketing purposes, it was agreed that the Games would still be branded as Tokyo 2020 notwithstanding the change in dates. Moreover, the organizers confirmed that all athletes who had already qualified for Tokyo 2020 would keep their qualification slots.


Calls for cancellation

Public support for the Games in Japan has seen significant decreases amid a 2021 surge in COVID-19 cases in Japan. Several organizations of medical professionals have voiced opposition to the Games while an opinion poll in April 2021 saw 40% of the respondents supporting the cancellation of the Games; 33% support a second postponement. In May 2021, 83% of those polled supported the cancellation or another postponement of the Games.

In an opinion poll in May 2021, 83% of those polled supported the cancellation or postponement of the Games. On the other hand, a 7 June poll shows 3% favor games without distance restrictions

In an open letter to the prime minister, the Tokyo Medical Practitioners Association called for the cancellation, stating that hospitals in Tokyo “have their hands full and have almost no spare capacity”. At least nine out of 47 elected governors supported the cancellation of the Games. Nearly 37% of Japanese companies surveyed supported the cancellation of the Games, and 32% supported postponement. A 7 June poll shows 55% are for cancellation or postponement, 41% favor limited or non-audience games. Three percent are in favor of games without distance restrictions.

Billionaire Rakuten CEO Hiroshi Mikitani: Hosting the Games in 2021 is “a suicide mission”

Hiroshi Mikitani, CEO of Rakuten, a Japanese electronic commerce and online retailing company based in Tokyo, said it would be a “suicide mission” for the country to host the Olympic Games in 2021. Kenji Utsunomiya, who had previously run for Governor of Tokyo, collected over 351,000 signatures on a petition calling for the organizers to “prioritize life” over the Olympics. Masayoshi Son, CEO of the SoftBank Corp., a Japanese multinational conglomerate holding company headquartered in Minato, Tokyo opposes the games, stating that “more than 80% of the people want to postpone or call off the Olympics. Who is going to push for it, with what rights?” Japanese writers Jiro Akagawa and Fuminori Nakamura also called for the Games to be postponed or canceled.

Japan National Stadium: where the opening and closing ceremonies, as well as track and field athletics events, at the 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympics will be held. Not even a no-spectator restriction would appease those who propose that the Games be re-postponed if not canceled entirely

On 26 May 2021, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper, which is a local sponsor of the Games, published an editorial calling for Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who succeeded Shinzo Abe who has resigned on account of illness, to “calmly and objectively assess the situation and decide on the cancellation of the event this summer.” The Financial Times reported on 4 June that Japanese sponsors have proposed to the organizers for “the Games to be postponed for several months,” citing a comment by a corporate sponsor senior executive: “It just makes much, much more sense from our perspective to hold the Games when there are more vaccinated people, the weather is cooler and maybe public opposition is lower.”
Text source: Wikipedia


What if the Games had been canceled?

Had Tokyo breached the Olympic contract, it would have had to shoulder the losses

Per the contract between the IOC and the host city of Tokyo, only the IOC could cancel the Olympics.

It has been estimated that the IOC will be making around 70% of its money from broadcast rights, and 18% from sponsorship. “If Tokyo had broken the contract and canceled, the risks and losses would fall on the Japanese side,” says the BBC who notes that “the budget for Tokyo 2020 was set at $12.6bn (£8.9bn), although it’s been reported that the actual cost could be double that.”


Note: Summer Paralympics will be held between 24 August and 5 September 2021 after the Olympics.





Featured image (Monument of Olympic Rings in Tokyo, taken 6 Feb 2021)/Dick Thomas Johnson, CC BY2.0 via  Flickr
Official Tokyo 2020 mascot/Fair use
ANA wearing Tokyo 2020 livery/Alan Wilson, CC BY-SA2.0 via Flickr
Tokyo Applicant City/Takeshi, CC BY-SA2.0
Shibuya Crossing/Jorge Láscar, CC BY2.0 via Flickr
Olympic monument, ICO HQ/ PD via Wikimedia Commons
Japanese in front of Tokyo 2020 banner/Marco Verch Professional Photographer, CC BY2.o via Flickr
Hiroshi Mikitani/桃園市政府, CC BY2.o
Tokyo 2020 logo/PD via Wikipedia
Olympic torch/, PD via Wikimedia Commons
Japan National Stadium/Anne Müesler, CC BY-SA3.0 via Wikipedia