International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach said Wednesday that he has organized a task force named “here we go” to investigate the complicated process of moving the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games to 2021.
The first task force meeting is scheduled for Thursday with 33 international sports federations, and a new date will be determined “as soon as possible,” Bach said.
Over 400 Olympic journalists from around the globe joined Bach by teleconference from Lausanne in Switzerland to discuss the IOC’s historic decision to postpone the Olympic Games amid the COVID-19 pandemic, for the first time in the organization’s history.
“This is a huge jigsaw puzzle and every piece has to fit,” Bach said.
“If you take out one piece, the whole puzzle is destroyed.
“Everything is important and I do not envy this work [of the task force].”
One of the first items on the table for the task force – a group comprised of IOC coordination commission members and the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee – will be to set a new date for the Opening Ceremony, Bach said “all the options are on the table.”
“The agreement [with the Japanese government] is that we want to organize this Olympic Games the latest in Summer 2020, that means this task force can consider the broader picture.”
“This is not restricted just to the summer months.”
“Dear Fellow athletes, you can be sure that you can make your Olympic dream come true.” – IOC President addresses athletes of the world. #StayStrong, #Olympics, #Tokyo2020. https://t.co/8gs256l6tR @Athlete365 pic.twitter.com/IA8LEnsNLy
— IOC MEDIA (@iocmedia) March 24, 2020
Bach called for sacrifices and compromises from all stakeholders including international sport federations, athletes and journalists, he said “it will require everybody’s effort to make these Games full of hope.”
Rescheduling the world’s biggest event will be a monumental task including securing leases, accommodations and space on the sports calendar only 16 months from now. Tokyo had been planning these Games for seven years.
The Olympic Village is a condominium project that has already sold the units for owner occupation starting September this year, after the originally scheduled Games. Finding a home for the athletes, or maintaining current plans could be the most challenging element.
Bach said “I would be very very delighted if we could have an Olympic Village in the traditional form.”
He said his organization now faces a huge challenge, now needing to focus on organizing a successful Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games over the next year amid planning for the Beijing 2022 Winter Games only months later and the Summer Youth Olympics in Dakar, Senegal in 2022.
Bach said sponsors, who have doled out billions of dollars to partner with the Olympic brand, would still be engaged for the rescheduled event in 2021.
“The Games are still ‘Tokyo 2020’, the President said, “so they keep their rights even if the Games are organized in 2021.”
Reporters Wednesday challenged Bach on his organization’s slow reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic while nations shut down and thousands have died. When asked if his resignation was in order, the IOC President simply answered “no.”
Bach maintained that the decision process was carefully orchestrated in conjunction with Japanese officials and with input from all stakeholders and advice from experts, including the World Health Organization (WHO).
The turning point, Bach said, was when WHO alerted over the weekend that there was an escalation of COVID-19 cases in Africa. He said, the concern was no longer about safe conditions in Japan, but about bringing people from around the world into Tokyo.