The 2020 Olympics in Tokyo are to be postponed by about a year, Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo and the International Olympic Committee agreed Tuesday amid the rapidly spreading coronavirus pandemic.
After months of internal discussions and mounting pressure from nations and athletes across the world, the International Olympic Committee will postpone the Summer Games that had been scheduled to begin in late July in Tokyo, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan said Tuesday.
Olympic Games, the world’s largest sporting event, will take place in the summer of 2021, a change that will wreak havoc with sports schedules but should bring great relief to the athletes, organizers and health officials who had increasingly pressed that the coronavirus pandemic made it unsafe to go forward with the event.
After his telephone talks with IOC President Bach, PM Abe spoke to the press and explained that the two have agreed that the Tokyo Olympic Games would not be cancelled, and the games will be held by the summer of 2021. pic.twitter.com/ihe8To2g3R— PM's Office of Japan (@JPN_PMO) March 24, 2020
“We agreed that a postponement would be the best way to ensure that the athletes are in peak condition when they compete and to guarantee the safety of the spectators,” Abe told reporters shortly after his conversation with Bach, adding that the Games would be held by the summer of 2021,” Japanese PM added.
The decision became inevitable after the national Olympic committee in Canada announced on Sunday that it was withdrawing from the Games, and Australia’s committee told its athletes that it was not possible to train for this summer under the widespread restrictions in place to control the virus. The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee, after initially declining to take a stand, joined the fray Monday night, urging the I.O.C. to postpone.
In announcing the decision, Abe said that he had asked Thomas Bach, president of the I.O.C., for a one-year delay and that Bach had “agreed 100 percent.” I.O.C. leaders have acknowledged the disruption but said that a delay was the only way to ensure that athletes could train safely and the more than $10 billion the Japan has spent to prepare for the Olympics during the past seven years would not go to waste.
In 2013, Tokyo beat out Madrid and Istanbul to win hosting rights for the event. Bach had said last week canceling the Games would not be an option.
Statements before the announcement to postpone
The US Olympic and Paralympic committee followed suit, citing the “enormous” disruption the pandemic had caused to training and the qualification process. A statement said: “Our most important conclusion from this broad athlete response is that even if the current significant health concerns could be alleviated by late summer, the enormous disruptions to the training environment, doping controls and qualification process can’t be overcome in a satisfactory manner.”
World Athletics, the Olympic committees of Brazil, Slovenia and Germany, USA Swimming and USA Track and Field had joined the growing chorus of calls for a new date for the event.
The head of health and safety for London 2012, Lawrence Waterman, had urged the IOC to postpone the Games for the first time in their 124-year modern history, saying they could not be held safely this year.
“These Games need to be postponed, and the sooner the IOC and the Japanese government face up to this the better. It’s simply not safe to put the games on during a global pandemic,” Waterman said in a statement.
It happened in past?
In the 124-years of the modern Olympics, the games has never been postponed, although it has been cancelled three times – in 1916, 1940 and 1944 due to the two world wars.