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Olympic rings in Tokyo Bay removed temporarily for 'maintenance'

TOKYO -- The five Olympic rings floating on a barge in Tokyo Bay were towed away Thursday for what is being called "maintenance," but officials said the iconic Olympic symbol will return to greet next year's Games.

The Tokyo Olympics have been postponed for a year because of the coronavirus pandemic and rescheduled to open on July 23, 2021. The Paralympics follow on Aug. 24.

"It's not a permanent removal," Masa Takaya, a spokesman for the Tokyo organizers, said this week. "It's a temporary removal just for maintenance."

Atsushi Yanashimizu, who works on the project for the city government, said the rings will "be reinstalled in four months of maintenance work with the hopes of bringing excitement to the Games, and to convey the appeal of the city of Tokyo and the Games through this symbol."

The barge with the rings was steered out of its mooring area by small tugboats on a warm, sunny morning.

Organizers are adamant the Olympics will take place next year but have given no specifics on how this can happen during a pandemic.

Few details are expected for months, including specifics about fans -- or no fans -- possible quarantines for 15,400 Olympic and Paralympic athletes, and the level of staff reductions expected.

The Japanese media have reported the delay will cost $2 to $6 billion, although organizers have given no figures.

The Olympic rings have been in the bay since early this year, arriving to symbolize the Games that were to have been taking place this week with the original closing ceremony set for Sunday.

The five Olympic rings are gigantic, standing 15.3 meters high -- about 50 feet tall -- and 32.6 meters from end to end -- about 100 feet in length.

The location of the rings in Tokyo Bay was the Odaiba Marine Park, which is the venue for triathlon and distance swimming.

The venue is a made-for television location, with a view across the water of the Tokyo skyline and the Tokyo's Rainbow bridge.