Decision brought forward
The President of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed on Tuesday to postpone the Tokyo Games to 2021.
And, while the Olympic flame will remain in Japan, the torch relay, which was scheduled to start on Thursday, will be suspended.
Olympic committees from various countries have welcomed the decision to postpone. The German Olympic Sports Confederation said it's important that the decision was made swiftly and clearly. It said the decision shows that the sports community is committed to helping end the pandemic.
Bach spoke to NHK, saying the concern has shifted from whether Japan can offer safe conditions to whether other countries can participate as the virus spreads globally.
"Humanity is going through a very dark tunnel, and we want to make the Olympic flame the light at the end of this dark tunnel," said Bach. "The Tokyo Games in 2021 will be a great celebration of overcoming this challenge."
Challenges piling up
Officials now need to deal with rescheduling the facilities, including 43 competition venues. There's also Tokyo Big Sight, a huge exhibition center that was block booked to be used as a media center for the thousands of journalists covering the events.
And some 80,000 volunteers were expected to play a part in the Games, but officials may need to begin the recruitment process all over again.
On top of logistics problems, the most pressing question may be when exactly the Games can be held. Next summer is already packed with international competitions, including swimming's world championships and the rescheduled European Football Championship soccer tournament.
Athletics organizers are already considering rescheduling the World Athletics Championships, which are planned for August 2021.
Funding is another headache. The organizing committee estimates the total cost of the Games to be around 12 billion dollars -- a figure that looks certain to increase. The organizing committee has set aside about 240 million dollars in reserve funds to prepare for unexpected situations, but will it be enough?
Impact on competitors
Meanwhile, athletes are worried the postponement will affect their performances. It will clearly require a fresh start for training programs to ensure peak performance at the right time.
Also, they are concerned about the selection system. In Japan's case, over 100 athletes have already qualified, but it remains to be seen whether those tickets will be honored, or if they'll have to re-qualify.
The IOC and the organizing committee issued a statement on Tuesday evening, saying the Games will still be known as "Tokyo 2020." It concluded with the hope that they can "stand as a beacon of hope to the world during these troubled times."