Yuko Okura started work as sport manager for archery at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in April 2016.
She had been counting down toward a single date on the calendar – 24 July 2020 – ever since: the day that 128 archers would first take to the competition field in Tokyo for the ranking round at the Olympics.
The Games were officially delayed in March.
“We now have one more year to prepare,” said Yuko. “It’s an opportunity to reconsider everything very carefully again. Many challenges might come up, but I think it is in a positive way that we have more time to work them through.”
“Since we hit pause,” she continued, “our team has been discussing the best way forward. We need to think of things we can optimise so that the power of sport can give people hope for the future.”
Just as the postponement has affected the athletes who compete, it has had a huge impact on those preparing the Games as well. It can take an emotional toll. Working on an Olympics is an all-consuming job – especially for someone like Yuko, who has been in archery for much of her life.
The new date in Yuko’s calendar is 23 July 2021. This is when the archers in Tokyo are scheduled to shoot qualification under the revised schedule.
While it was announced in July that the competition format at the Games would remain the same, it is expected that some services at the event will be reduced to lower the overall cost.
The organising committee, said Yuko, is working on the principle of simplifying the Olympic and Paralympics while focusing on the sport and athletes so that they better reflect the current global social and public health context.
“Next year might be 2021, but these will be the Olympic and Paralympic Games of Tokyo 2020,” she added.
“We look forward to the time the world can come together again and stand united – a celebration of our resilience, of humanity and all the things we will never take for granted again.”
In the meantime, Yuko and her department are mostly working at home. The lockdown in Japan has been lifted, but visiting the office is still only for essential work. This weekend, they were back at Yumenoshima Park to check on the venue.
Sport in the country is returning, too.
The Japanese professional baseball league started its season on 19 June, and professional football followed on 4 July, both without spectators. Shortly afterward, on 10 July, both started to accommodate crowds at 50% capacity – up to a maximum of 5,000 people.
There’s steady progress that needs to be made over the next 12 months to ensure the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games run without a hitch in 2021.
Yuko and her team are working toward that delayed deadline.
“I’m hoping for this situation to settle as soon as possible and hope everyone stays safe,” she said. “I can’t wait to see everyone smiling in Tokyo, and I’m looking forward to the great matches and wonderful performances that will be on display here next year.”
As well as the Games themselves being postponed, some of archery’s last qualification tournaments were also affected by the international hiatus in 2020.
Continental qualification tournaments in Oceania, Europe and the Americas remain outstanding – and are tentatively expected to take place in early 2021 – while the last world qualifier is planned to run ahead of the third stage of the 2021 Hyundai Archery World Cup in Paris, France.
#ArcheryatTokyo is the official hashtag for all things archery at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.