The International Olympic Committee will set July 23, 2021, as the new target date for the opening of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, reports Tariq Panja of the New York Times. An emergency IOC meeting will be held Sunday to consider the decision.
A final ruling could come in weeks, according to the IOC, but a source tells Panja that an announcement is expected much sooner. NHK, the Japanese state broadcaster, also reported July 23 as the new target date Saturday, as Panja notes.
The games had been set to begin on July 24 of this year but were postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic. IOC spokesman Mark Adams refused to confirm the new date, calling it “speculation.”
It makes sense to keep a similar schedule, Panja writes, because it’s easier to fit into the sports calendar, and it’s the preferred date for NBCUniversal, which is paying more than $1 billion to broadcast the Games. IOC president Thomas Bach told reporters this week that federations representing swimming, table tennis, triathlon and equestrian wanted to move the games to the spring, but that would have interfered with professional soccer seasons and some U.S. sports, including the NBA.
Organizers still face the challenge of securing sites for the rescheduled Games and taking care of facilities that may sit idle for an entire year.
“A Games has never been postponed before,” Bach said, via Panja. “We have no blueprint, but we are nevertheless confident we can put a beautiful jigsaw puzzle together and will then in the end have a wonderful Olympic Games.”
Keeping the Games in mid-summer will make it easier to attract stars from soccer, tennis and golf, which are among the top television attractions. The availability of basketball players will depend on how this season and next season are restructured in the NBA and other leagues around the world once the pandemic is under control.