A month ago, the Olympics were postponed for the first time in history as the coronavirus pandemic forced the world and its athletes into quarantine.
Now, with less than 15 months until the Tokyo Olympics' rescheduled opening in Japan next summer, organizers are scrambling to rework their 2020 plans into a similar schedule for 2021.
If the games can be held at all, that is.
A successful staging still hinges on many factors, including whether or not the threat of the virus will be sufficiently abated with enough time left for athletes to resume their training and qualification ahead of the games. With most of the sports world on hold, the international calendar remains a question mark.
The one-year delay of the 2020 Summer Games was officially agreed to on March 24 by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, and the new schedule -- the Olympics from July 23 to Aug. 8, 2021 and the Paralympics from Aug. 24 to Sept. 5. -- announced a week later.
A week after that, Abe declared a state of emergency for Tokyo and other prefectures, effectively multiplying the challenges of the Tokyo organizing committee which is now working through the logistical nightmare mainly from home.
Organizing staff still get sent out, however, for missions deemed essential tasks, like negotiating with venue operators to secure their facilities' availability -- an undertaking organizers are seeking to achieve at any cost in order to limit major disruptions to the competition schedule.
One of the biggest challenges for the host nation is the burden of additional costs generated by the postponement. Amid fears of a serious recession in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, Tokyo is facing several hundred billion yen in extra costs, a prospect sure to stoke negative public opinion at a critical time.
Even if the local organizing committee manages to increase its revenue by extending contracts with sponsors and employing other financial maneuvers, public funds will likely be used to defray some costs -- including fees for re-securing venues, renewing contracts of organizing committee personnel and rearranging hotel accommodations for those involved with the games.
Organizers are working to assess the total amount, but Tokyo organizing committee CEO Toshiro Muto admitted "it is not easy" with negotiations still ongoing. At present, the extra costs are estimated to be around 300 billion yen ($2.8 billion), though sources close to the matter have said the additional burden could rise to somewhere between 500 and 600 billion yen.
But there seems to be confusion as to just who will be saddled with the majority of the damages. The IOC said on its website Monday that Abe had committed Japan to absorb its share of the additional costs -- a statement that was met with immediate opposition from Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga and later deleted at the request of the local organizing committee.
As the organizers' private funding is limited, it was decided during Tokyo's Olympic bid stage that the host city would be first in line to cover expenses should the organizing committee go into the red. Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike said Tuesday the parties "are looking into how the Japanese government, Tokyo metropolitan government and organizers will handle the added cost."
The latest budget of the Tokyo Games is 1.35 trillion yen ($12.5 billion). Tokyo is expected to cover 597 billion yen of the total cost, plus an additional 777 billion yen in "related expenses" such as making facilities barrier-free. This additional public spending will likely face opposition from taxpayers.
(Tokyo's new National Stadium)
"The taxpayers will require clear explanations," Muto said.
This is also not to mention the financial downturn looming for national Olympic committees and international federations, as major sources of revenue have been cut off with the postponement of competitions worldwide. Athletes, too, are suffering without access to facilities and equipment needed for training.
The IOC revealed it has amended and extended the Olympic qualification process, however, as only around 57 percent of the qualification places have been secured.
But the larger question still looms -- will it be safe enough by next summer to hold the Tokyo Games?
John Coates, head of the games' coordination commission, said in a virtual press conference last week that he has "good faith in the Japanese measures" being taken against the virus and would continue to take guidance from the World Health Organization as the situation develops, but conceded it was "too early to say" if the outbreak could further impact the games.
Less than a week later, the organizing committee revealed that one of its staff members still working at the headquarters in the Harumi district of the capital tested positive for the coronavirus. Around 10 percent of the committee's 3,800 members are working from the office.
The Japanese government, Tokyo metropolitan government, the organizing committee and IOC have all agreed the games will not be cancelled. Tokyo organizing committee President Yoshiro Mori, who had insisted the games' schedule would not change right up until the March 24 announcement, has doubled down on next year's dates, saying "We have no choice but to meet the challenge in one year with unwavering determination."
(The athletes village built for the Olympics and Paralympics.)
But Naofumi Masumoto, a visiting professor at Tokyo Metropolitan University specializing in Olympic research, said it will take 12 to 18 months to develop a coronavirus vaccine and speculates it will be difficult to hold the games next summer.
"I think there is a chance of another postponement to the following autumn (in 2021), but it can't be delayed until 2022 when the Beijing Winter Olympics will be held, so if it's not possible in the autumn the games may be cancelled," Masumoto said.
"At that point the entire world will be gripped by hardship and it won't be the time for sports. The reason for the cancellation of previous Olympics was war. It can be said that this situation is just as serious."
"It's unfortunate we haven't seen any contributions so far on countermeasures against the new coronavirus from the International Olympic Committee, an advocate of promoting peace," he added. "Being healthy is a basic premise of human life -- for the sake of achieving peace, I hope to see them make an effort to support medical equipment in developing countries."
The Olympics have been cancelled three times in the past, all due to war. It remains to be seen if the Tokyo Olympic flame can serve as the "light at the end of the tunnel" as organizers hope.