Frequently Asked Questions about the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020

08 May 2020
IOC News Tokyo 2020

Please note that this document will remain on the website for reference purposes but will not be updated any further.

Tokyo 2020

As of 8 May 2020:

(New): How is the COVID-19 pandemic affecting the Refugee Olympic Team?

We are in direct and regular contact with the athletes. They are doing well and are showing great resilience in these difficult times. Their situation really depends on where they live. They are all continuing to train while respecting the measures put in place by the authorities of their respective countries. The members of the Tokyo 2020 Refugee Olympic Team have not yet been selected. As the Olympic Games have been postponed, the selection date has also been postponed to 2021. The exact date is still to be confirmed. Most of the athletes have not moved and are quarantined in the houses/apartments where they used to live before the pandemic hit their host country. Some of them – like the athletes based in Kenya – joined families and/or relatives based in other parts of the country.

Like all the other athletes around the world, it really depends on the situation and restrictions put in place by each country’s authorities. Some athletes can train outside (forest, beach, etc.) while others have to stay at home and must find "indoor" solutions to train. All of them are doing their best to continue their training routines.

Video clips of a number of athletes are available on the IOC social media handles - @RefugeeOlympicTeam (Instagram), @RefugeeOlympicTeam (Facebook) and @RefugeesOlympic (Twitter).

(New): Can the IOC confirm it will hold a virtual IOC Session this year?

In light of the postponement of the Games of the XXXII Olympiad and the current measures being implemented in Switzerland and around the world to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, the IOC Executive Board (EB) will discuss holding the 136th IOC Session remotely through a secure electronic system on Friday 17 July 2020, from 12 to 4 p.m. CEST; and the plan is for it to be live streamed. The agenda and organisation of the IOC Session, including a secure electronic voting system, will be discussed by the EB in due course.

(Updated): What is the impact of the postponement of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on elections in National Olympic Committees (NOCs) and National Sports Federations?

NOCs could see their election cycle affected by the postponement of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 – most NOCs usually hold their regular elections in the year following the Games of the Olympiad. To help them address this challenge, and given that the main priority is to enable the NOCs to best prepare their respective teams for the Olympic Games, the IOC has decided to adopt a flexible approach and will let the NOCs decide, subject to their respective statutes, either to follow the four-year term of office or to follow the Olympic Games cycle and hold their elections after the Olympic Games in 2021, subject to certain conditions. In this case, the IOC, on an exceptional basis, will consent to an extension of the initial term of office beyond four years. The IOC sent a circular letter to all NOCs on 23 April 2020 to formally confirm this position, and is currently reviewing the specific situation of the impacted NOCs to help them find the most suitable solution on a case-by-case basis.

As far as the elections in the National Federations are concerned, this is not under the direct jurisdiction of the IOC. However, we understand that the National Federations will also coordinate their approach with their respective International Federations and NOCs to adopt, as far as possible, a consistent and harmonised position at a national level, in consultation with the concerned authorities, if necessary.

(Updated): What is the IOC's role in providing financial support for the International Federations during this difficult period?

We are conscious of the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on the International Federations (IFs) and have already started discussions with them on a case-by-case basis as the needs of each IF are different. Following those discussions over the next few weeks, we will understand the landscape, and the IOC will be able to know more the role it can play in addressing the situation and how to give the IFs support, including accessing government and other support programmes which may be available.

As of 21 April 2020:

Can the IOC provide any support to spectators who are trying to get their flight and hotel room bookings refunded or postponed due to the decision to postpone the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 to next year?

Unfortunately, the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic is having a major impact on all of us and is significantly disrupting all our lives during this unprecedented crisis. Like us, athletes and fans around the world are disappointed that they cannot attend the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 as planned this year. The Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee has announced a principle that tickets bought for the Games this year will be valid in 2021 where possible, and that ticket holders who cannot attend in 2021 will be reimbursed. As you will appreciate, the IOC is not in a position to comment on hotel or flight bookings which were made through third parties. We would encourage people who were planning to come to the Games this year to speak directly to Tokyo 2020 or the organisations that they booked with to discuss their options.

As nobody can be sure when the pandemic will be under control, why not just reschedule the Tokyo Games for 2022?

Our Japanese partners and the Prime Minister made it very clear that Japan could not manage a postponement beyond next summer at the latest. It is a mammoth undertaking, both for the Organising Committee and the country as a whole. First of all, you need to secure the availability of the Olympic Village, since that is at the heart of the Games. The same applies to all the sports venues. Thousands of people will need to carry on working. All the partners, sponsors and regional and local governments need to pull together. Postponement will involve restrictions and compromises on the part of everyone involved. There is no blueprint for postponement, but the IOC is very confident that all the complex parts will come together and give us a marvellous Games.

What is the status of athletes serving doping violation suspensions that come to an end before the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 in July 2021?

WADA, as the global anti-doping regulatory body, has clarified that under the current rules, doping bans are chronological and not event-specific. The IOC has tried on several occasions to introduce rules that would exclude athletes convicted of doping from the subsequent Olympic Games. This has never been allowed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

What is the IOC doing to protect clean athletes during this period of restricted testing?

number of measures in the fight against doping have and will continue to be taken to protect clean athletes and ensure that the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 and the qualifying events are held in the best possible conditions.

These measures have been introduced by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) with the support of the IOC. Steps are also being taken by the IOC in association with the International Testing Agency (ITA) for the Pre-Games Testing Programme. Samples taken during pre-Games testing will be stored for 10 years so that as soon as improved testing methods become available, these samples can be retested. In addition, the Pre-Games Testing Task Force is analysing in detail which sports and athletes are most involved, and which substances are most commonly used. As soon as the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, there will be a new targeted Pre-Games Testing Programme based on this analysis, that will continue until the start of the Games. The extra time now available presents an opportunity to use and validate new testing methods.

For additional information: WADA ADO Guidance and Athlete Q&A

What will be the financial impact of postponing the Games? 

Tokyo 2020 and the IOC confirm that it was agreed between the IOC and Japan on 24 March 2020 that the Games of the XXXII Olympiad will now be celebrated in 2021. This postponement was made in order to protect the health of all people involved in the staging of the Games, in particular the athletes, and to support the containment of the virus. It will now be the work of the IOC to assess all the challenges induced by the postponement of the Games, including the financial impact for the Olympic Movement.

The Japanese government has reiterated that it stands ready to fulfil its responsibility for hosting successful Games. At the same time, the IOC has stressed its full commitment to successful Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. The IOC and the Japanese side, including the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee, will continue to assess and discuss jointly about the respective impacts caused by the postponement.

Are the athletes benefiting from Olympic Scholarships for preparation towards the Tokyo 2020 Games going to have their support extended?

Support to the athletes will of course continue, and Olympic Solidarity has already confirmed the extension of the Olympic Scholarships for the more-than 1,600 athletes from 185 National Olympic Committees and the IOC Refugee Olympic Team. The total of the Olympic Solidarity programmes, which now runs from 2017 to 2021, amounts to some USD 110 million.

As of 9 April 2020:

How will the change impact the IOC Session 2021 which is scheduled for June 2021 and includes election of the next IOC President?

This is something that will now need to be discussed. We are not able to provide more details at this stage. 

How did the World Health Organization (WHO) react to the decision to postpone the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020?

In a telephone conversation on 30 March between Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo and WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Dr Tedros expressed his respect and support for the decision and stated the WHO’s desire to continue to be part of the preparations for the success of the Games.

How are you going to handle the qualification process for these Games?  

As part of the work of the “Here We Go” Task Force currently addressing the list of issues raised by the postponement of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Qualification Task Force has approved a series of amendments to the Tokyo 2020 qualification system principles. These include an extended qualification period and new deadlines: 

  • The new qualification period deadline is 29 June 2021, and IFs can define their own qualification period deadlines should these be prior to this date.
  • The revised final sport entries deadline has now been set at 5 July 2021.
  • The revision of the qualification systems will be finalised as quickly as possible, to give certainty to the athletes and National Olympic Committees (NOCs).

It is clear that all those athletes who have qualified for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 already remain qualified. This is a consequence of the fact that these Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, in agreement with Japan, will remain the Games of the XXXII Olympiad. Some 57 per cent of qualification places have already been obtained. In some cases, a qualification quota place is obtained by the National Olympic Committee (NOC), and in some cases it is obtained directly by a specific athlete. In all cases, and as per the Olympic Charter, the respective NOC retains the right to select the athletes to represent it at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

When will the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 be staged and what are you working on right now?

The Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 will be celebrated from 23 July until 8 August 2021. It is a very complex event to organise, and its postponement is a real challenge. It is like a huge jigsaw puzzle where every piece is important and must fit together.

It is the responsibility of the Tokyo 2020 Coordination Commission to work with all the stakeholders involved, starting with the Organising Committee Tokyo 2020, the 33 International Federations, the 206 National Olympic Committees, athletes, sponsors and broadcasters to work on all the questions coming from the decision taken to postpone the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

A dedicated Task Force – called “Here we go” – has been established under the umbrella of the Tokyo 2020 Coordination Commission and comprises Tokyo 2020 and the IOC. Its remit is to address the long list of questions that the postponement raises.

What exactly triggered the postponement and why did it take so long?

The postponement was based on the dynamic spreading of COVID-19 pandemic. The IOC has, from the very beginning, communicated that it was monitoring the situation day-by-day, 24 hours a day, and that it would adapt to any changes, and follow the advice of the World Health Organization. This is exactly what was done. 

The sequence of events that led to postponement has been explained by the IOC President on many occasions and can be found here.

Have the Games been postponed before?

No. The 20th century’s two World Wars led several editions of the Olympic Games to be cancelled, but this will be the first time in Olympic history that the Games are postponed. More information on previous cancellations of the Games can be found here.

Is this the worst crisis that the Olympic Movement has ever faced? How does this compare to the cancellations due to the two World Wars?

Comparisons are always dangerous as they can be interpreted in different ways. To compare a postponement with a cancellation due to a World War would not be right, considering the losses and human suffering that a war brings with it. What we can say is that it is an unprecedented crisis for humankind, as we have never seen such a spread of a virus before, and an unprecedented challenge for the Olympic Games. 

Who actually made the decision: the IOC or Japan?

It was a concerted conclusion with the full commitment of the Japanese government to host the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 successfully in their complete form and to fulfil its responsibility. The IOC also reiterated its full commitment to successful Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

Was the postponement driven by the growing voices of criticism coming from athletes and NOCs around the world?

The IOC has always taken into consideration the athletes' voice, which has played a very important role. We are in constant contact with our Athletes’ Commission, whose Chair is a member of the IOC Executive Board and takes part in any consultation, any decision and any vote. 

The IOC President addressed the athletes in several letters. There were also several calls between our Athletes’ Commission and many athlete representatives around the world, and a phone call with more than 200 athlete representatives and the IOC President. In this phone call, there was not a single voice asking for the cancellation of the Games. The questions revolved around the qualification system, the training conditions, mental health and other issues. We took all of this into consideration, plus the many voices of athletes that we heard from around the world who were not in this call. Some were critical, and others were very supportive. This is normal in this very difficult situation of uncertainty. 

What do you hope will be the legacy of Tokyo 2020 for the people of Japan now that the Games have been postponed?

We all agree that the Olympic Games in Tokyo can stand as a beacon of hope to the world during these troubled times. Humankind currently finds itself in a dark tunnel. These Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 and the Olympic flame can be a light at the end of this tunnel. Therefore, it was agreed that the Olympic flame will stay in Japan. It was also agreed that the Games will keep the name “Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020”. Hosting the Games in 2021 is already very symbolic, and we hope the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 will be a celebration of humankind.

What will happen to the Olympic flame and the Torch Relay?

The Olympic Torch Relay will stop for now, but it has been agreed that the Olympic flame will stay in Japan. Humankind currently finds itself in a dark tunnel. The Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 can be a light at the end of this tunnel.

For any questions about the Olympic flame, please see here.

Why was cancelling the Games altogether not considered an option?

A cancellation of the Olympic Games would have destroyed the Olympic dream of 11,000 athletes from all 206 National Olympic Committees, from the IOC Refugee Olympic Team, and for all the people who are supporting the athletes, including coaches, doctors, officials, training partners, friends and family. It would also have destroyed the work and the enthusiasm of our great Japanese hosts, with Tokyo being the best-prepared city for the Games ever.  

What will be the impact of the postponement of the Games on the IOC as an organisation?

Postponing the Games represents a big challenge. In the coming months and year, we will have to focus on the organisation of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, of course, but also on the delivery of the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022, which are approaching fast, and the Youth Olympic Games Dakar 2022. We will need to assess how this workload affects our staff and decide how to organise ourselves to be as efficient as possible in helping the Organising Committees deliver the Games. We will rely on the “Here we go” Task Force to give a clear overview of the situation and of the scope of the challenge ahead of us so that the IOC, as an organisation, can put in place the relevant measures and resources.  

Do the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 need to be adjusted after the postponement to 2021?

All operational questions related to the programme of the Games, venues, accommodation, etc. will have to be addressed by the “Here we go” Task Force, which was set up under the umbrella of the Tokyo 2020 Coordination Commission and in close cooperation with the relevant stakeholders. Until this has happened, we will not be able to provide detailed answers. However, there is no doubt that the postponement of the Games will require sacrifices and compromises by all the stakeholders involved. International Federations may have to adjust their sporting calendars, athletes will have to adapt to new event scheduling and living conditions during the Games, additional costs will be involved, etc. It will require everybody’s efforts to make these Games a symbol of hope, and we are confident that, with solidarity and flexibility, this can be achieved. 

What will happen for ticket-holders? Will their tickets remain valid or will refunds be available? 

This is something that the Tokyo 2020 organisers are currently working on. They will provide this information to ticket-holders as soon as they have figured out the best way forward. 

What will happen with the Olympic Village?

This is one of the many questions that will need to be addressed by the Tokyo 2020 “New Launch” Task Force. The best will be done to ensure that there is an Olympic Village in Tokyo 2020, as this is where the heart of the Olympic Games is beating. It is our hope that we can have an Olympic Village in the traditional form, because everybody who has stayed in an Olympic Village knows that this is the real Olympic experience. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience – living under one roof with the whole world, forming these unique Olympic communities. 

How are you going to handle the rescheduling of World Championships and other competitions to allow the Olympic Games to take place?

The IOC will be liaising very closely with all the International Federations to assess how the postponement of the Games impacts their own calendars.  

How did the Olympic sponsors and broadcasters react to the announcement? 

Our Partners have been very supportive in the decision to focus on the health, safety and security of both the international and Olympic community in these uncertain times. We would like to thank them for their continued cooperation, and we look forward to working together to ensure that the Olympic Games are an incredible experience for all. 

Some TOP Partner agreements end in 2020 – will these Partners lose the sponsorship opportunity, or will you extend their agreement? 

In the spirit of partnership, we are working in close collaboration with all of our broadcasters and sponsors to ensure the success of the rescheduled Tokyo Games. We thank them for their long-term support of the Olympic Movement and commitment to the Olympic values, including in this unprecedented situation. Our intention is that our partners who have rights to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 are able to continue to associate with those Games following the postponement, as the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 will continue to be the Games of the XXXII Olympiad.

What happens with all the Tokyo domestic sponsors - are their agreements automatically extended?

The extension of Tokyo 2020 domestic partners’ rights will be discussed with the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee, which manages the domestic commercial sponsorship programme. 

How did NOCs react to the announcement?

NOCs across the world have been extremely supportive of the announcement, and have reiterated their support and commitment to contribute to the success of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 next year. 

What will happen if the pandemic is still not contained by summer 2021? 

We will follow the risk management and mitigation measures set out by the World Health Organization (WHO) for mass gatherings in the context of the current COVID-19 outbreak. We will continue to follow the principle that has driven all our decisions so far, which is to organise Olympic Games only in a safe environment for all people involved. We are committed to following this principle in the future. 

How will this impact the future Games elections? 

There are already expressions of interest in future Olympic Games and Olympic Winter Games and we are very much encouraged by the many parties with whom we have had informal consultations already.

The two Future Host Commissions will continue to monitor the interest for future Olympic Games and Youth Olympic Games, and there will be a focus on the Olympic Winter Games in 2030.

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