The 2020 Tokyo Olympics have been postponed to no later than the summer of 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe, the International Olympic Committee announced Tuesday.
The Games were scheduled for July 24-August 9, but after telephone discussions between IOC president Thomas Bach and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a historic joint decision was taken for the first postponement of an Olympics in peacetime.
Abe had earlier said Bach was in “100 percent agreement” when Japan asked the IOC to push back the Games.
The IOC had come under mounting pressure in recent days to postpone the world’s biggest sporting event, with teams, athletes and sports bodies all calling for a delay.
The postponement comes after top federations announced they would pull out of the Tokyo Games, the highest-profile event to be affected by a virus that has decimated the sporting calendar.
Around 1.7 billion people across the world are in lockdown to prevent the further spread of a virus which according to an AFP tally has killed over 16,200 people and infected more than 377,000.
It’s been coming
Senior IOC official Dick Pound had said Monday a postponement of this year’s Tokyo Olympics is now inevitable as the world reels from the coronavirus pandemic.
The IOC said on Sunday the body would wait four more weeks before announcing its decision on the fate of the July 24-August 9 Games, amid mounting calls for them to be rescheduled.
“My interpretation of the IOC’s communications is they don’t want to cancel, and they don’t think they can continue with the July 24 date,” Pound told AFP. “So you’re looking at the ‘P’ word – postponement.
“They’re going to explore options with the Japanese of course, and then there all kinds of stakeholders – international federations, NOCs, athletes.
“And then in four weeks they’re going to try and come out with a plan B and make it as specific as they can make it in that time period.”
An IOC spokeperson did not respond directly to the substance of Pound’s remarks, saying only in a statement: “It’s the right of every IOC member to interpret the decision of the IOC EB (Executive Board) which was announced yesterday.”
Pound, who is Canadian, said the “astonishing” spread of COVID-19 across the globe left the IOC with no other choice.
“This is not something that’s going to clear up by July 24,” Pound said.
“And this thing isn’t going to go away by September or October. A lot of the biggest countries in the world are just about overwhelmed, and it’s just starting to take root in Africa. It’s a no-go in my view.”
A one-year postponement to 2021 remained the most likely option, Pound added.
“I think the one-year postponement is the most feasible because it gives you the most time to organise,” he said.
On Sunday the Canadian Olympic Committee became the first national olympic committee to declare they would not participate if the Games took place in July.
In the United States, both the governing bodies of track and field and swimming have called for the Games to be postponed.
Still 2020 Olympics
The postponed Olympics will retain the name “Tokyo 2020” despite being held next year, the city’s governor said Tuesday.
“The name will remain Tokyo 2020,” Yuriko Koike told reporters after Japan’s prime minister said he agreed a year’s delay with the head of the International Olympic Committee because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“First, no cancellation has been confirmed. It’s clear. And a goal – by summer in 2021 – has become concrete. It’s also a very concrete guide for athletes as well. I think it’s a big thing.” Koike said.