More than 4.5 million ticketholders await word after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) today (Tuesday) announced Tokyo 2020 has been postponed until 2021.

Millions of ticketholders are waiting anxiously to hear whether their tickets will be honoured for the new date and whether refunds can be obtained. More than 4.5 million tickets have been sold to Japanese residents in the first two phases of the domestic ticket lottery

International sales for Tokyo 2020 tickets had been scheduled to begin in mid-May with organisers stating in its most recent budget from December that $800m had already been raised through domestic ticket sales.

Japanese ticketholders have expressed concern that refunds would not be met as the Tokyo 2020 ticketing policy states that organisers would not be held responsible if the Olympics are cancelled due to a number of “force majeure” incidents ranging from natural disasters, war and “states of emergency connected to public health.”

However, the event, which was to kick off on July 24 and run through to August 9 before the Paralympics followed from August 25 to September 6, has not been cancelled, but postponed for the first time in its history.

The IOC president Thomas Bach and the Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe concluded that Tokyo must be rescheduled to a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021, to “safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games and the international community.”

Bach and Abe were joined on their conference call by Tokyo 2020 organising committee president Yoshiro Mori, Olympic Minister Seiko Hashimoto, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, IOC Coordination Commission chair John Coates, IOC director general Christophe De Kepper and IOC Olympic Games executive director Christophe Dubi.

The IOC announced on Sunday that it would consider postponing the Games and it had planned on discussing the matter with the relevant parties over the next four weeks.

However, with various international federations having pushed for a postponement and the national Olympic committees of Canada and Australia among those that said they would not be sending athletes to a Games this summer, an early decision has been made to push the event back to 2021.

In a joint statement, the IOC and the Tokyo 2020 organising committee said: “The unprecedented and unpredictable spread of the outbreak has seen the situation in the rest of the world deteriorating. Yesterday, the director general of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said that the Covid-19 pandemic is ‘accelerating’.

“There are more than 375,000 cases now recorded worldwide and in nearly every country, and their number is growing by the hour. In the present circumstances and based on the information provided by the WHO today, the IOC president and the Prime Minister of Japan have concluded that the Games of the XXXII Olympiad in Tokyo must be rescheduled to a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021, to safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games and the international community.”

The postponement of the Games will likely have significant economic ramifications and cause a number of logistical problems for the sporting calendar. Only 57 per cent of athletes had qualified for Tokyo 2020 and the postponement will enable time for the necessary qualifying events to be held before next year’s Games.

Image: Tokyo 2020