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Tokyo Olympics Postponed Until 2021

Today the International Olympic Committee (IOC) officially postponed the Tokyo 2020 games due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The event is now scheduled for 2021. They announced the change in a statement, which reads:

IFSC Speed Climbing Rock Olympics Tokyo

The IOC listed three considerations in their decision: protecting the health of athletes and everyone involved to support the containment of COVID-19, safeguarding the interests of athletes and of Olympic sport, and avoiding issues related to the global international sports calendar. The first two items explain why the games were postponed, the third item is related to the new dates for the games—roughly the same as the original 2020 schedule, but in 2021. According to ESPN, “There had been talk of switching the Olympics to spring, a move that would coincide with the blooming of Japan’s famous cherry blossoms. But it would also clash with European soccer and North American sports leagues.” The IOC also said that the schedule will provide sufficient time for the qualification process, and allow the games to implement the same heat mitigation strategies that they had planned for 2020.

This announcement follows weeks of speculation from fans and hints from the IOC. Last week IOC executive Dick Pound told USA Today, “the games are not going to start on July 24 [2020], that much I know.”

Before Pound’s comments, a NY Times op/ed expressed skepticism that it would even be possible to hold the Olympics in July because many Olympic berths had yet to be awarded and qualifying events were being postponed or cancelled. Climbing still had several Olympic qualifying events that were in limbo—the remaining Continental Championships. The op/ed also highlighted qualified athletes who were unable to train because they were unable to access facilities with the necessary equipment.

Climbing has reported extensively on the 2020 games because they will be the first Olympics to include sport climbing. The sport was accepted after a protracted application process. It was first rejected, but then received a second chance and was accepted as part of a new program that allowed the host country to propose sports with broad local and international appeal. Sport climbing was one of five sports that made the cut, from an initial list of 26. The postponement presents another bump in climbing’s long journey to the games.

Throughout today’s statement, the IOC continued to refer to the event as the “Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.” At this time, it sounds like the games will not be renamed the “2021 Olympics” despite the new schedule.