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Seriously, What Is Going On With the 2021 Olympics?

Zoe Weiner

Late last March, thanks to rising concerns about COVID-19, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) made the decision to postpone the 2020 Tokyo Olympics for one full year. As of now, the event is scheduled to kick off on July 23, 2021. But as cases all over the world continue to tick upwards, the question at the top of everyone's mind is whether or not the 2021 games are going to happen, after all.

Tomorrow marks six months until the games' purported start date, and over the last few days, the Internet has been a flurry of contradictory information about their fate. On Thursday, The Times, a daily newspaper out of the U.K., reported that "the Japanese government has privately concluded that the Tokyo Olympics will have to be cancelled because of the coronavirus," and the city is shifting its focus to hosting the games in 2032, which is the next year available.

But according to a statement from the IOC, per CNN, these rumors are "categorically untrue." The Japanese government is reportedly "determined that the games will go on," and the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee has said that it is making "every effort to prepare for a safe and secure games."

All over the world, Olympic representatives seem to be sending the same message. "The Tokyo Games are on," Australian Olympic Committee CEO Matt Carroll told reporters Friday, per CNN. "The flames will be lit on the 23rd of July 2021." And on Twitter, Canadian Olympic chief David Shoemaker stated that his team was unaware of any sort of cancellation, and that Canada's Olympic team will "continue [their] preparation to participate at Tokyo 2020 with a focus on the health and safety of our athletes, their families, and their communities."

Even if the games do move ahead as planned, they may look quite a bit different than they did in the pre-pandemic world. In July, Tokyo 2020 chief executive Toshiro Muto said that the games may be held with a "limited audience" (in order to make social distancing possible), but that the committee wanted to avoid hosting the event without any spectators at all. He also noted that the opening and closing ceremonies may be "simplified," and that there may be a reduced number of staff and delegations from each of the 200-plus countries that will be represented. Athletes will also be limited in the amount of time they're able to stay in the Olympic Village.

The initial postponement was undoubtedly the safest option for athletes, but the decision didn't come without costs. Teams lost money, Olympians' retirements were postponed, and training schedules were interrupted. In speaking to athletes last year about their feelings on the date change, the general sentiment among them was "deflation" (as one coach put it) about having to put their dreams on hold for another year, and fear and uncertainty about what, exactly would happen.

Of course, "uncertainty" has been the name of the game these last 10 months, and at this point in the pandemic, we're all well aware of the fact that we shouldn't trust a "sure thing." But today, there is hope that the 2021 games will go on as scheduled—and we can't wait to cheer on athletes when they finally make it to Tokyo.

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