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China Daily Global / 2020-03 / 26 / Page007

From countdown to counting on hope, Tokyo plans anew for Games

China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-03-26 00:00

TOKYO-Japan set about the unprecedented task of reorganizing the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics on Wednesday after making the tough decision to postpone the Games by a year as the coronavirus pandemic locks down one third of the planet.

The dramatic step to shift the Olympics, never before seen in peacetime, upends every aspect of organization for the event-including venues, security, ticketing and accommodation.

In a move symbolic of the difficulties now facing Tokyo, Olympic countdown clocks in the city switched from displaying the number of days to go to simply showing today's date and the time.

"It's like taking seven years to build the world's biggest jigsaw puzzle and, with just one piece to go, having to start again but now with less time to finish," tweeted Craig Spence, spokesman for the International Paralympic Committee.

It is not even clear exactly when the rescheduled Games will take place, with the International Olympic Committee, or IOC, saying the new date would be "beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021".

Japan has framed Tokyo 2020 as the "Recovery Games"-a chance to show the world it has bounced back from the "triple disaster" in 2011 when a massive earthquake sparked a tsunami and the Fukushima nuclear meltdown.

The delayed event-still to be called Tokyo 2020-will now be a "testament to mankind's defeat of the new virus", said Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

He repeated that message in a Wednesday call with US President Donald Trump, in which the leaders agreed the Games would be "proof that humans have beaten the new coronavirus", a Japanese government spokesman said.

Light at the end of tunnel

The Olympic flame "could become the light at the end of the tunnel in which the world finds itself at present", Japan and the IOC said in a joint statement.

The quadrennial Olympics, which has weathered boycotts, terrorist attacks and protests, is the highest-profile event affected by the virus that has killed thousands and postponed or canceled sports competitions worldwide.

IOC President Thomas Bach said the postponement was "about protecting human life", with more than 11,000 athletes expected along with 90,000 volunteers, and hundreds of thousands of officials and spectators from all over the world.

The Japanese media were also broadly supportive, although the Tokyo Shimbun daily screamed "surprise and embarrassment".

Japan and the organizing committee were spending $12.6 billion on the Games and experts say they may need to spend around half that again to rearrange the event, before hopefully recouping the losses when the Olympics are held.

Yoshiro Mori, the president of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee, an 82-year former prime minister and cancer survivor, pointed to his own health battles as inspiration for the difficult times ahead. "We have no choice but to have hope. I myself suffered cancer.... But I was saved by a new drug. I am here, allowed to live. Let us hope for these things."

Agencies - Xinhua

Officials take souvenir photos next to the Olympic cauldron on a stage in Naraha, Japan, on Wednesday. They later removed the decorations from where the Olympic Torch Relay was supposed to start. KYODO/REUTERS



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