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Tokyo 2020’s arduous journey

How we got to the Tokyo Olympics amid a global pandemic

Tokyo 2020 is truly shaping up to be an Olympics like we've never seen before, notably the spectator ban which the International Olympic Committee says is the first time ever that a host city will not actually have spectators watching the event. Nearly eight out of 10 (78%) people in Japan also say the Olympics should not go ahead as scheduled, according to a recent Ipsos Mori survey. Despite the Games being delayed and that degree of public opposition, here's a timeline of how Tokyo 2020 finally came to be staged.

    • 2013

      • Fabrice Coffrini/Pool/Getty Images

        September 7, 2013

        After a vote that took place in Buenos Aires, Tokyo is announced as the host of the 2020 Olympics, ahead of Istanbul and Madrid. It will be the second time that Tokyo has hosted the Summer Games, having previously done so in 1964.

    • 2014

      • Scott Halleran/Getty Images

        May 7, 2014

        NBC agrees to pay $7.7 billion to broadcast the games through to 2032, extending a current deal running up to the Tokyo Olympics. The 2032 Olympics will be the 23rd to be broadcast by NBC.

    • 2016

      • Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

        August 3, 2016

        The IOC adds five sports to the Games; skateboarding, karate, surfing, sports climbing and baseball / softball will all feature at Tokyo 2020.

    • 2018

      • Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty Images

        July 21, 2018

        The names for the mascots of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, Miraitowa and Someity respectively, are revealed. Miraitowa combines the Japanese words mirai and towa, meaning future and eternity. Someity is named after Someiyoshino, the cherry blossom variety, and also echoes the English phrase “so mighty”.

    • 2019

      • Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images

        July 24, 2019

        Exactly one year from the opening ceremony, the Tokyo 2020 medals are revealed. Melded from copper and zinc found in donated cellphones and other electronics, the medals have a pebble-like appearance and measure 8.5 centimeters in diameter.

      • Carl Court/Getty Images

        December 15, 2019

        Crafted with inspiration from Japanese architecture and the environment, Kengo Kuma’s 68,000-seat stadium in Tokyo is inaugurated. It cost 157 billion yen ($1.4 billion) and is scheduled to host the opening and closing ceremonies for the Olympics and Paralympics, as well as football matches and various track-and-field events during the Games.

      • Getty Images

        December 31, 2019

        Cases of an unknown viral pneumonia in Wuhan, China, are first reported to the World Health Organization. The cases occurred between December 12 and December 29, according to Wuhan Municipal Health, but the virus was unknown at the time. On January 7, Chinese authorities identify the virus as a novel coronavirus, and four days later the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission announces the first death caused by coronavirus.

    • 2020

      • Aris Messinis/Pool/Xinhua/Getty Images

        March 12, 2020

        The lighting ceremony of the Olympic flame takes place in Olympia, Greece. Due to concerns over coronavirus transmission, the audience is kept small. The relay, scheduled to travel to all 47 prefectures of Japan over 121 days from March 26, is suspended the next day amid coronavirus concerns.

      • Charly Triballeau/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

        March 24, 2020

        With the coronavirus outbreak continuing to spread across the globe, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the IOC agree to postpone the Olympics until 2021, clarifying that the event will still be dubbed Tokyo 2020.

      • Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images

        March 30, 2020

        The IOC announces new dates for the Tokyo Olympics, which will be held from July 23 to August 8, 2021. The new dates for the Paralympic Games are August 24 to September 5, 2021.

      • Rodrigo Reyes Marin/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

        September 25, 2020

        As the coronavirus pandemic shows few signs of abating, Olympic organizers propose plans for a scaled-down event in Tokyo, which includes cutting down the number of officials by 10-15%, reducing invitations for both the opening and closing ceremonies, and offering shorter opening periods for training venues.

      • Carl Court/Getty Images

        December 22, 2020

        The organizing committee says the postponed Games are set to cost $2.8 billion more than initially projected, bringing the total cost of hosting the Games to $15.4 billion with an extra $900 million for pandemic countermeasures.

    • 2021

      • Carl Court/Getty Images

        January 22, 2021

        The IOC tells CNN that a report in the Times of London, citing an unnamed senior member of the ruling coalition, that the Games are set to be canceled due to Covid-19 are “categorically untrue,” with the Japanese government corroborating the same message.

      • Asahi Shimbun/Getty Images

        February 13, 2021

        Less than six weeks before the Olympic torch relay is due to begin in Fukushima to showcase the region’s recovery from a catastrophic nuclear disaster a decade ago, the Japanese prefecture is rocked by a 7.1 magnitude earthquake.

      • Patrick Smith/Getty Images & Maja Hitij/Bongarts/Getty Images

        March 2, 2021

        For athletes, the past year has been beset with uncertainty. Husband and wife Tyrone Smith and Sandi Morris tell CNN about the challenges of navigating the “purgatory” of a postponed Olympics, and how they are holding out on dreams of competing at their first Games as a married couple.

      • James Matsumoto/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

        March 20, 2021

        Tokyo 2020 organizers announce that international spectators will be refused entry into Japan for this summer’s Olympic and Paralympic Games to reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission.

      • Philip Fong/Pool/Getty Images

        March 25, 2021

        The Tokyo Olympic torch relay begins. Members of the Japan women’s football team began the 121-day journey, which passes through 859 locations before culminating in the opening ceremony on July 23.

      • David Mareuil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

        May 14, 2021

        A petition calling for the cancellation of the Tokyo Olympics garners 350,000 signatures in nine days, reflecting the public opposition to the event as a fourth wave of Covid-19 infections sweeps Japan.

      • Kyodo News/Getty Images

        May 14, 2021

        Amid growing concerns over the viability of holding Tokyo 2020 during a global pandemic, Hiroshi Mikitani, CEO of top Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten, tells CNN Business that hosting the Olympics amounts to a “suicide mission”.

      • Carl Court/Getty Images

        July 8, 2021

        Tokyo venues for the pandemic-delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympics will not have spectators due to the city's coronavirus state of emergency through the Games, according to the Japanese Olympic Committee. Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee president Seiko Hashimoto said due to the pandemic, organizers have “no choice but to hold the Games in a limited way.”

      • Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

        July 22, 2021

        Even as athletes arrived for the Olympics, some were soon to discover that they wouldn’t be able to compete. Czech beach volleyball players Markéta Sluková-Nausch and Barbora Hermannova were both ruled out of the Games as the European team grappled with Covid-19 after they landed in Tokyo. Sluková-Nausch’s positive test result was announced on July 22 , as she became the fifth member of the Czech Olympic team to have tested positive for Covid-19 in Tokyo.

        “We cried, then we swore, then we cried again,” said Sluková-Nausch, whose positive test also rules out her playing partner Hermannová from the Games.

        “I am just hoping that no other athletes will follow us, because I think that something like this is a nightmare for any athlete, for any Olympian, who gets this far, this close to the Olympic competition,” added Sluková-Nausch.

      • Morry Gash/AP

        July 23, 2021

        The Olympics Opening Ceremony officially kicked off the Games, with US First Lady Jill Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron attending the event. As Japan continued to report record Covid-19 cases, athletes from over 200 countries paraded in a near-empty stadium. Some teams practiced social distancing while others didn’t. Ahead of the opening ceremony's start, protesters took to the streets of Tokyo to voice their opposition to the staging of the Olympics in Japan.