Olympic struggle

Sports | AGENCIES 26 Mar 2020

Japan set about the unprecedented task of reorganizing the Tokyo 2020 Olympics yesterday after making the tough decision to postpone the Games by a year as the coronavirus pandemic locks down one-third of the planet.

The dramatic step to shift the Olympics, never before seen in peacetime, upends every aspect of the organization - including venues, security, ticketing and accommodation.

It is not even clear exactly when the rescheduled Games will take place. International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach yesterday left the door open for them to be staged in the spring instead of the normal summer slot.

"This is not restricted just to the summer months," Bach said in a conference call. "All the options are on the table."

In a move symbolic of the difficulties, Olympic countdown clocks in Tokyo switched from displaying the number of days to go to simply show the current date and time.

"Our mission is to organize the Games and make the dreams of athletes come true," Bach said. "We have no blueprint but we are confident we can put a beautiful jigsaw puzzle together and in the end have wonderful Olympic Games."

Japan Olympic Committee president Yasuhiro Yamashita said he would approach the postponed Games with a "fresh mind, not giving up."

A task force had been created to examine the issue, Bach said.

He added that he could not guarantee all elements of the Games would remain as initially planned. For example, he did not know what would happen with the athletes' village, where apartments were set to be sold after the Games this year.

"This is one of the many thousands of questions this task force will have to address," he said.

Japan and the organizing committee were spending US$12.6 billion (HK$98.28 billion) on the Games and experts say they may need to spend around half that again to rearrange the event - before hopefully recouping the losses when the Olympics are held.

Meanwhile, the Olympic torch relay, due to begin from Fukushima today, has also been postponed but the flame will stay in the area until it is safe to begin.

The Games originally were set to run from July 24 to August 9.

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