Olympic decision raises fresh questions about Tokyo Summer Games

A view of the National Stadium before a media tour of Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games venues in July 2019.
A view of the National Stadium before a media tour of Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games venues in July 2019.might
(Matt Roberts / Getty Images)

The coronavirus pandemic has prompted Olympic leaders to postpone the 2022 Youth Olympics by four years, raising questions about whether next summer’s date for the Tokyo Games also might be pushed further back.

Host city Dakar, the capital city of Senegal, will now hold the youth version of the competition in 2026. It’s the first time an Olympic event will be held on the African continent. The International Olympic Committee characterized the shift as a mutual decision reached with Senegal President Macky Sall.

“It reflects the challenges we are facing in the Olympic movement and beyond,” IOC President Thomas Bach said in a news conference from Lausanne, Switzerland.

Olympic leaders spent weeks buying time as the coronavirus spread, still planning on the Tokyo Games. Here is why they decided to postpone the Summer Olympics.

With the novel coronavirus surging in parts of the world, especially the U.S., there has been widespread concern about holding the Tokyo Games next summer. Recent polls have shown the Japanese people remain skeptical about welcoming thousands of athletes, officials and fans to their country.


Bach said the decision to postpone Senegal was more about logistics than public health. There was danger of a logjam, with Tokyo in 2021, the Beijing Winter Games in 2022 and the Paris Summer Olympics and Winter Youth Games in 2024.

Fitting the Dakar Games into 2022 “really was too heavy a workload for everybody,” Bach said.

As the IOC begins three days of meetings, officials continue to insist that the Tokyo Games can take place as planned next July. They have been working with the World Health Organization to develop multiple scenarios, depending on the ever-changing state of the pandemic.

Visiting national teams might be asked to isolate beforehand, but it appears that holding the Games without fans remains a non-starter for the IOC and Japanese organizers.

“The Olympic Games behind closed doors is clearly something we do not want,” Bach said. “We are working for a solution of the Olympic Games, which on the one hand is safeguarding the health of all the participants and on the other hand is also reflecting the Olympic spirit.”