Summer Olympics Will Happen in 2021 'With or Without COVID,' Says IOC Vice President

Tokyo Olympics
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The games are scheduled to start on July 23, 2021.

The games will go on! According to IOC Vice President John Coates, the Summer Olympics are happening next year regardless of whether there is still a coronavirus pandemic. 

"It will take place with or without COVID," Coates told the press. “"he games will start on July 23 next year. The games were going to be, their theme, the Reconstruction Games after the devastation of the tsunami. Now very much these will be the games that conquered COVID, the light at the end of the tunnel."

After being pushed to 2021, the International Olympic Committee announced that the competition is now scheduled to take place from July 23 to Aug. 8, 2021, with the Paralympic Games taking place from Aug. 24 to Sept. 5, 2021.

Prior to Coates insisting that the games will take place no matter what, IOC President Yoshiro Mori said just the opposite. When asked back in April by Nikkan Sports if they would again postpone the event if the coronavirus pandemic was ongoing, Mori replied, "No. It will be canceled then." 

"The Olympics were canceled in the past for problems like war. We are fighting against an invisible enemy now," he said in the interview (via CNN). "The Olympics would be much more valuable than any Olympics in the past if we could go ahead with them after winning this battle."

Mori added, "We have to believe this. Otherwise our hard work and efforts will not be rewarded."

When rescheduling the Olympics back in March, the IOC revealed that several considerations were taken into account, including the protection and health of the athletes and participants. "These new dates give the health authorities and all involved in the organisation of the Games the maximum time to deal with the constantly changing landscape and the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic," a release said. 

"I want to thank the International Federations for their unanimous support and the Continental Associations of National Olympic Committees for the great partnership and their support in the consultation process over the last few days. I would also like to thank the IOC Athletes’ Commission, with whom we have been in constant contact," IOC president Thomas Bach said in a statement. "With this announcement, I am confident that, working together with the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, the Japanese Government and all our stakeholders, we can master this unprecedented challenge. Humankind currently finds itself in a dark tunnel. These Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 can be a light at the end of this tunnel."

The new dates came after Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe revealed that he and Bach have agreed to delay the event by a year as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. 

The delay was made official shortly after Dick Pound, a veteran International Olympic Committee member, revealed to USA Today that “on the basis of the information the IOC has, postponement has been decided.” 

“The parameters going forward have not been determined, but the Games are not going to start on July 24, that much I know,” he continued, adding that “it will come in stages. We will postpone this and begin to deal with all the ramifications of moving this, which are immense.”

Bach said that they would assess the situation and make a final decision. The Games, he clarified at the time, would not be canceled.  

Additionally, Australia and Canada both announced that they would not send their athletes to the 2020 competition in Japan. According to CBS Sports, “The Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee announced that they will refuse to send athletes if the Games are not postponed, becoming the first country to officially announce their intentions to withdraw from the games barring a postponement.”

The Australian Olympic Committee, meanwhile, came to a unanimous decision, agreeing “that the country's Olympic team shouldn't participate due to the circumstances surrounding the coronavirus,” CBS Sports reported

The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee also said they would like the International Olympic Committee to postpone the Tokyo Games.

In a joint statement, USOPC board chair Susanne Lyons and CEO Sarah Hirshland cited the wishes of U.S. athletes after a survey was sent to roughly 4,000 athletes. 

"Our most important conclusion from this broad athlete response is that even if the current significant health concerns could be alleviated by late summer, the enormous disruptions to the training environment, doping controls and qualification process can’t be overcome in a satisfactory manner," Lyons and Hirshland said. "To that end, it’s more clear than ever that the path toward postponement is the most promising, and we encourage the IOC to take all needed steps to ensure the Games can be conducted under safe and fair conditions for all competitors."

The Olympics is one of the biggest events affected by the spread of COVID-19, which resulted in numerous shutdowns and cancellations.