Japan awakes to reality of shelved Games

A Tokyo 2020 countdown clock now displays the actual time after the Olympics were postponed

Japan has awoke to the deflating reality that the Olympics they had hoped to host in Tokyo this summer were now probably 16 months away after the coronavirus crisis forced organisers into an unprecedented postponement.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Japanese government finally succumbed to intense pressure from athletes and sporting bodies around the world on Tuesday when they agreed to put back the Games until 2021.

It was a huge blow to Japan, which has invested $US12 billion ($A20 billion) in preparations, but also for the prestige of the Olympic movement and its leader Thomas Bach, who had come under fire for not reacting sooner in the face of the global health crisis.

Japan Olympic Committee (JOC) President Yasuhiro Yamashita said the decision had come earlier than he thought it would, but he was determined the host nation's athletes would be ready to compete in 2021.

"Now that the decisions have been made, let's take this positively, reset our mindset," he told a news conference.

The decision came 122 days before the planned opening ceremony at Japan's newly built National Stadium, which was to usher in the 16-day event featuring 11,000 athletes from 206 nations and territories.

The countdown clock in front of Tokyo Station which had been displaying the number of days until the Games halted and reverted to Wednesday's date and time.

Athletes around the world, many struggling to train because of restrictions put in place to contain a virus which has killed more than 17,200 people, expressed disappointment but largely welcomed the decision.

The rapidity of the move from the position that the Games would go ahead as planned to postponement meant it came out of the blue for some, however.

"When I learned the Olympics were being postponed, I was honestly surprised," Japanese sport climber Tomoa Narasaki said in an Instagram post.

"However, no matter when the Olympics are held there is no change in the things I'm aiming for."

Many other questions remain about the re-arranged Games, not least when they will happen after the IOC announcement stated only that they would take place "not before the end of summer 2021".

Somewhere around the original 2020 dates of July 24 - August 9 looks most likely, especially after organisers confirmed the marathon and race-walks would remain in Hokkaido where they were moved because of the sweltering Tokyo summer heat.

Those dates would require the shifting of other major events scheduled next year, in particular the athletics world championships in the United States and the swimming equivalent in the Japanese city of Fukuoka.

World Athletics chief Sebastian Coe has suggested its championships in Eugene, Oregon could be moved to 2022, while swimming's FINA said they would discuss a rescheduling of their event with Tokyo organisers and the IOC.

The Olympic flame, already lit at Olympia in Greece and taken to Japan for a now-cancelled torch relay, will stay in the host nation as a symbol of hope and the Games will retain the title Tokyo 2020.