(Updates with Tokyo 2020 quotes)
TOKYO, July 17 (Reuters) - Next year’s Tokyo Olympics will follow an almost identical competition schedule as the one planned for this year before the event was postponed due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, organisers said on Friday.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Japanese government decided in March to postpone the Games until 2021 and organisers have been working to rearrange an event almost a decade in the making.
The new date for the opening ceremony at the newly-built National Stadium -- July 23, 2021 -- had already been announced but the full schedule was pending final approval until Friday when the Tokyo 2020 organising committee made a presentation to the IOC Session in Lausanne.
The Games had been set to begin on July 24 this year.
“Today we are able to report that we have confirmed both the competition schedule and the use of all venues originally planned for this year, including the venue for the athletes village and the main press centre,” said Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto.
The new schedule means women’s softball will kick off competition at 9 a.m. (0000 GMT) in Fukushima on July 21, two days before the Games officially open, with all events taking place a day earlier than the 2020 schedule.
There have also been some minor changes to session times.
The Games are set to be the biggest ever in terms of events, with a record 339 medals available, before the closing ceremony on Aug. 8.
One of the biggest hurdles for organisers was securing the 42 venues needed for the Games as many had already been booked for 2021.
However, Muto said all the venues have been secured.
The marathon and race walking events will remain in the northern city of Sapporo after being controversially moved out of Tokyo because of the anticipated scorching summer heat.
John Coates, the head of the IOC’s coordination commission, said that securing the venues had been a “massive task”.
“We are talking about venues in different ownership,” he told the session.
“We are talking also of securing the Olympic village which has been constructed by a consortium of 11 different companies, who have agreed to put back the date when will be able to hand over the apartments to the public.”
The next challenge for Tokyo organisers is developing measures to help prevent a COVID-19 outbreak from occurring during the Games and how much the delay will cost Japanese taxpayers.
Muto said decisions would be made on these issues in the autumn.
“We will be having a full-fledged discussion over COVID-19 countermeasures,” he said.
“But, as an example, the topics and themes we may discuss are immigration control, enhanced testing structures and the establishment of treatment systems and measures against COVID-19 in the areas of accommodation and transport.” (Additional reporting by Brian Homewood in Bern; Editing by Peter Rutherford, Christian Radnedge and Toby Davis)
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