TOKYO: A notice which reads in Japanese “Under adjustment” is pasted on a countdown display for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in Tokyo on March 25, 2020. Japan started the unprecedented task of reorganising the Tokyo Olympics after the historic decision to postpone the world’s biggest sporting event due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic that has locked down one third of the planet. – AFP

TOKYO: Tokyo Olympics organisers are eyeing next July as a start date for the postponed Games, Japanese media reported Sunday, following the historic decision to delay the event due to the coronavirus. Given the ongoing pandemic and need for preparation time, the most likely plan would be for the Games to begin on July 23, 2021, public broadcaster NHK said, citing sources within the organising panel.

It came after Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike raised the idea on Friday of moving the event to a less hot and humid time of year. She argued that this would make marathons and other races easier to endure, meaning they could be held in the capital instead of in northern Sapporo city, where the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had decided to move them.

The Tokyo 2020 team led by Yoshiro Mori is currently discussing possible dates with the IOC, according to the Asahi Shimbun newspaper. On Saturday, Mori told a Japanese TV station that “some kind of conclusion” would be reached within a week. The Olympics were scheduled to open on July 24 this year with the Paralympics on August 25, but Japan announced last week it had secured agreement from the IOC to postpone the Games — a decision unprecedented in peacetime.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said they would be held in around a year instead as a testament to humanity’s victory over the pandemic. The decision had been seen to open options for Tokyo, with IOC chief Thomas Bach saying that “all the options are on the table” and rescheduling “is not restricted just to the summer months”. Meanwhile, NHK said the Olympic flame would be displayed for a month at the J-Village sports complex in Fukushima, which was used as a base camp for thousands of relief workers in radiation protection suits during the 2011 nuclear disaster.

Meanwhile, Japanese star Naomi Osaka says she’s disappointed not to compete at the Tokyo Olympics this year but supports the decision to postpone the event to 2021. The 22-year-old former world number one said on Twitter Saturday that she thinks the event will be better for moving to next year in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. “Sport will eventually unite us again and be there for us always, but that time is not now,” Osaka wrote.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the International Olympic Committee agreed to postpone the Olympics after athletes worldwide expressed concern about trying to stage the spectacle amid so much uncertainty. “Everyone knows how much the Olympics means to me and how proud I will be to participate in my home country. Of course I’m disappointed that it won’t happen this year,” Osaka said.

“But we’ll all be ready to go stronger than ever in 2021! I support Prime Minister Abe’s brave decision and the IOC 100%.” Osaka, the 2018 US Open and 2019 Australian Open champion, asked the Japanese people to stay strong. “This is the time for people from all countries, backgrounds and races to rally together to save as many lives as we can,” Osaka said. “To me that’s the Olympic spirit.” – AFP