One of the trickiest aspects of moving the Games is handling the broadcast rights that drive revenue for the International Olympic Committee. Nearly three-quarters of I.O.C. revenue comes from broadcast rights, and about half of those fees are paid by the American broadcaster NBC. Experts said its likely broadcaster and other Olympic partners may seek a reduction in their fees.
Postponing the Games for a year will yield significant complications. The international governing bodies for track and field and swimming are set to hold world championships then and will have to work with their athletes and host cities to push those events back, as will other international federations with major events on the calendar.
However, keeping the event in the summer means most of the top professional athletes, including golfers and tennis, basketball and soccer players, may still be able to participate. At other times in the year, they have commitments to their usual teams and leagues. Also, the Games organizers will not have to worry about television audiences, which probably would have shrunk if the Olympics had to compete with the busy fall sports schedule in the United States and across Europe — including the N.F.L., playoff baseball and the Premier League.
Moving the Games to the summer of 2022, another option, carried its own logistical challenges. In 2022, the I.O.C. is set to hold the Winter Games in Beijing. Also, soccer’s World Cup, which rivals the Olympics for the globe’s biggest audience, is scheduled for the end of 2022. Three events in a calendar year would have put significant much financial pressure on Olympic sponsors, several of which also commit hundreds of millions of dollars to both the Winter Games and the World Cup and are now reeling form the collapse of the world economy.
Paris is set to host the Summer Olympics in 2024, and Los Angeles in 2028.
Until now, the Olympics had not been canceled or postponed since World War II. Tokyo was supposed to host the Summer Games in 1940 but had to bow out after it went to war with China. The Games were then awarded to Helsinki, but were canceled after the outbreak of the war in Europe. Helsinki ultimately hosted the 1952 Summer Games, and Tokyo held them in 1964.
The Summer Olympics are the world’s largest sporting event, attracting more than 10,000 athletes from more than 200 countries, and the I.O.C. prides itself on being a peace movement that brings the world together every two years at the Winter and Summer Games.
With that in mind, as well as the billions of dollars that had been invested in the Games, Bach postponed his decision for months, waiting to see if the threat of the pandemic would dissipate. Ultimately, the prospect of making the situation worse proved too great a risk for an organization that relies largely on the good will of people and governments around the world for its survival.