From the moment it became clear last year that an unprecedented pandemic would threaten the Tokyo Olympics, organizers seemed to bungle their messaging time and time again.

In the first three months of 2020, a vacuum of information fueled weeks of speculation over the fate of the games. The special government minister appointed for the games, Seiko Hashimoto, said a delay would be "inconceivable.” Then-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who had been counting on the event to cap a record-long run in the post, insisted that the competition would be held in its "complete form.”

As one qualifier after another was canceled, and with the COVID-19 virus rapidly spreading across the globe, the U.S. and Canadian teams made it clear they wouldn’t be sending athletes to Tokyo, which was expecting more than 600,000 visitors and some 11,000 competitors to attend.