Confirmed: Tokyo Olympics to start on July 23rd 2021

IOC and local organisers agree on a new date for postponed Games after Monday meeting

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics will take place on near identical dates in the summer of 2021, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Monday agreeing with local Tokyo organisers to reschedule the Games from Friday, July 23rd to Sunday August 8th.

This follows last week’s agreement that the Games would take place “no later than summer 2021” because of the coronavirus crisis.

The leaderships of the key parties came together via telephone conference earlier today, joined by IOC President Thomas Bach, Tokyo 2020 President Yoshiro Mori, Tokyo Governor Koike Yuriko and Olympic and Paralympic Minister Hashimoto Seiko, and agreed on the new schedule.

This decision was taken based on three main considerations and in line with the principles established by the IOC Executive Board (EB) on March 17th, 2020 confirmed at its meeting today. These were supported by all the International Summer Olympic Sports Federations (IFs) and all the National Olympic Committees (NOCs):


1. To protect the health of the athletes and everyone involved, and to support the containment of the COVID-19 virus; 2. To safeguard the interests of the athletes and of Olympic sport; 3. The global international sports calendar.

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. The new dates, exactly one year after those originally planned for 2020, also have the added benefit that any disruption that the postponement will cause to the international sports calendar can be kept to a minimum, in the interests of the athletes and the IFs. Additionally, they will provide sufficient time to finish the qualification process. The same heat mitigation measures as planned for 2020 will be implemented.

Following Monday’s decision, the IOC President 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. 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.”

It has previously been confirmed that all athletes already qualified and quota places already assigned for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 will remain unchanged. This is a result of the fact that these Olympic Games Tokyo , in agreement with Japan, will remain the Games of the XXXII Olympiad.

This year’s Olympics were originally due to begin on Friday July 24th and run to Sunday August 9th. The 2020 Paralympic Games will take place in 20201 from August 24th to September 5th.

The postponement is the first in the 124-year history of the modern Olympics, although several, including the 1940 Tokyo Games, were cancelled due to war.

The next step for the IOC will be to agree the new qualification period and criteria with each of the Olympic sporting bodies. World Athletics have already confirmed the governing body would be flexible with the dates of the World Athletics Championships, which are currently scheduled to take place in Oregon in 2021. from August 6th to 15th .

World Athletics President Sebastian Coe said last week the World Championships could be moved to 2022 to accommodate the Summer Games.

“If we were to hold the next World Championships in 2022, a year after the Games, you would have the next ones in 2023, and then be in the Olympic Games in 2024,” Coe said. “You would have athletics centre stage for four consecutive years…I think we could live with that, and that athletes could live with that.

The World Swimming Championships are also scheduled to take place from July 16th to August 1st, 2021, in the Japanese city of Fukuoka. The International Swimming Federation also pledged last week to be flexible regarding the dates of the event. Should those events be postpone into 2022, however, that in turn could have a knock-on effect on the 2022 European Athletics Championships, already booked in for that summer in Munich, and the 2022 Commonwealth Games, set for Birmingham.

Tokyo’s overall Olympic budget skyrocketed from $7.3 billion at the time of the bid to more than $26 billion, according to an audit by the Japanese government, projections that an outright cancellation could cause the shrinking of Japan’s GDP by 1.5 per cent.

There was some suggestion of scale-back on the 42 venues and possibly even the 33 sports, but now at least it appears business as usual for 2021, even with the Japanese financial newspaper Nikkei putting the added cost of postponing at $2.7 billion.

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics