The IOC and local organizers have agreed on a new start date for the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, scheduling the opening ceremonies for July 23, 2021.

Tokyo Summer Olympics 2021
The Tokyo Summer Olympics have officially moved to July 2021, with organizers planning to start the Games almost exactly one year after their original date. (Image: Carl Court/Getty)

Organizers postponed the Summer Olympics last week, citing concerns over the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Summer Olympics Reject Spring Start Date

The IOC had planned to begin the Tokyo Games on July 24, meaning the rescheduled festival will now begin almost exactly one year later, provided there are no additional changes.

“The schedule for the games is key to preparing for the games,” Tokyo organizing committee president Yoshiro Mori told reporters. “This will only accelerate our progress.”

While keeping virtually the same schedule for the Summer Olympics may seem like a no brainer, it was far from the only potential solution. Some officials proposed moving the Tokyo Games to spring 2021, which would both space it further from the 2022 Winter Olympics, and provide for the stunning imagery of the Games taking place against the backdrop of Japan’s cherry blossoms.

That plan came with significant drawbacks, however. First, national federations would face tight schedules to organize qualifying events, especially if some nations were once again unable to hold large events in the fall or winter due to new COVID-19 outbreaks.

Additionally, even in the best-case scenarios, a spring date would put the Summer Olympics up against the tail end of European soccer leagues, as well as both the NHL and NBA seasons. A midsummer date means less competition from other sporting events.

“These new dates give the health authorities and all involved in the organization of the Games the maximum time to deal with the constantly changing landscape and the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the IOC said in a statement. “The new dates … 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 [international federations].”

Postponed Games Will Cost Japan Billions

All international sports federations supported the July 2020 start date, according to the IOC.

The Paralympic Games will now start on Aug. 24, 2021, and will wrap up on Sept. 5.

Local organizers are likely to face severe financial strain due to the rescheduling. Japan has already officially spent $12.6 billion on the Summer Olympics, with an estimate cited by the Los Angeles Times putting the actual cost to the government and organizers at closer to $30 billion. Now, Kansai University sports economics professor Katsuhiro Miyamoto believes that the postponement might cost the country as much as $4 billion more, according to ESPN.

“Since [the Olympics] were scheduled for this summer, all the venues had given up hosting any other events during this time, so how do we approach that?” organizing committee CEO Toshiro Muto told reporters. “In addition, there will need to be guarantees when we book the new dates, and there is a possibility this will incur rent payments. So there will be costs incurred and we will need to consider them one by one. I think that will be the tougher process.”