Re-scheduling an Olympics is not so easy as sending out a new Evite.

Athletes need to rebuild their training schedules – yes, even if they’re still not able to train yet. The international sports federations need to move their own events. Organizers need to lock down venues for an additional year, secure hotel rooms again, figure out what to do about those tickets that were already sold, rework the hundreds and hundreds of contracts that were already signed … and on and on it goes.

The ripple effects are massive, and the sooner everyone can start wading through them, the better.

The International Olympic Committee said last week – was it really only a week ago? – that it would decide within four weeks what to do about the Tokyo Games, which were supposed to begin July 24. Eight days later, the Games have been postponed and there are new dates, announced Monday.

Everything is being pushed back a year, with the Olympics now July 23 to Aug. 8, 2021, and the Paralympics held Aug. 24 to Sept. 5, 2021.

Yes, that’s a rapid shift of events. Some would say foolhardy, given COVID-19 has upended the world and we don’t know what conditions will be in a month, let alone a year.

But if the Olympics are to be held, every day from now until then matters.

“Everybody wants the uncertainty removed,” Michael Payne, who was the IOC’s marketing director from 1983 to 2004 and now works as a consultant, told USA TODAY Sports on Monday.

“The sooner they could announce the dates, the better,” Payne added. “When they initially announced three to four weeks, it was a recognition that it’s a mind-boggling complex (to postpone the Games). The first piece of the jigsaw puzzle is the dates. The sooner that could be agreed, the better.”

There are 740,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and more than 35,000 people have died from it. The number of cases – and deaths – continue to spike in the United States, and even President Donald Trump has grudgingly admitted we are nowhere close to the peak.

There still are no drugs approved for treatment, and a vaccine remains at least 12 months away. Without one or the other, some health experts have warned that stay-at-home orders could be a recurring thing.

So, yes, the possibility remains that we will reach this same point next year and realize that the Games can’t go on as re-scheduled, either. But that would be the case whether the IOC announced a date now or in three weeks.

And if we are having this same debate again next year, well, we’ll have far bigger concerns.

“If the world is still in lockdown at that stage, we’re going to be facing much more serious problems than dealing with the Olympic Games,” Payne said.

But if the Olympics and Paralympics are to be held, organizers need as much time as they can get to pull them off.

Tokyo is the refreshing rarity among recent host cities in that it’s not rushing until the last minute to get things done. The venues are all built. Transportation plans are in place. Ticket sales have started and interest has been robust.

There is a reason the IOC gives host cities seven years to plan for a Games, however. The details are numerous and pain-staking. Even if broadcasters and sports federations are on board with the rescheduled dates – pretty much a certainty, given how much money everyone has wrapped up in the Olympics and Paralympics – organizers still have to look at every single aspect of their voluminous plans and make sure it still works and, if not, figure out an alternative. They will need to redo hundreds and hundreds of contracts.  

All of this takes time. Three weeks might not seem significant in a 16-month timeframe, but every day a decision wasn’t made put organizers further behind.

And what of the athletes?

Few in Europe and the United States are able to train because of lockdown orders, and that’s not likely to change for at least several more weeks. But these are people who build their lives around a fixed date on a calendar. Even with the uncertainty and disruption that will continue to exist, having a new date will relieve some of their stress and anxiety. 

There are those for whom the Olympics are the last thing on their mind, who see the mere discussion of how to proceed with them a useless and, frankly, gluttonous exercise. That’s understandable. 

But there are those who are looking for any sign of brightness and hope, and the optimism of setting a new date for the Olympics might provide that. 

“The Olympics have always been about bringing the world together,” Payne said. “Next year, the world is going to be looking to have some form of celebration showing that the world has pulled through this. I believe these Olympics could wind up being the greatest ever because of that.”

Organizers have their work cut out for them, and there’s not a day to waste. 

Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour. 

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