The Tokyo Olympics which was scheduled to be held from July 24, 2020, has been rescheduled to a date no later than summer 2021, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Japanese organisers said on Tuesday.
The accelerating Covid-19 crisis has forced the Olympics to be postponed for the 1st time in its 124-year modern history.
“In the present circumstances and based on the information provided by the WHO today, the IOC President and the Prime Minister of Japan have concluded that the Games of the XXXII Olympiad in Tokyo must be rescheduled to a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021, to safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games and the international community,” the IOC said in a statement.
“The leaders agreed that the Olympic Games in Tokyo could stand as a beacon of hope to the world during these troubled times and that the Olympic flame could become the light at the end of the tunnel in which the world finds itself at present. Therefore, it was agreed that the Olympic flame will stay in Japan. It was also agreed that the Games will keep the name Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.”
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and IOC president Thomas Bach discussed the possibility of postponement over phone from Tokyo on Tuesday. Abe said that the IOC boss agreed 100 percent to Japan’s proposal of postponing the Games by a year.
The IOC had faced flak for delaying what seemed to be an inevitable decision despite growing voices against hosting the Olympics as scheduled. Several athletes and sporting federations across the globe expressed their concern over preparation and safety in the wake of the novel coronavirus outbreak.
However, on Sunday, the IOC for the 1st time spoke about the postponement and said a final call would be taken in 4 week’s time.
IOC president Thomas Bach wrote a letter to athletes even as an Executive Board Meeting took place on Sunday via teleconference. The IOC is planning to step up ‘scenario planning’ during the said time period and will consider postponement.
However, the pressure on the IOC grew further as Canada and Australia announced on Monday that they would be pulling out from the Games if it is held as scheduled despite the coronavirus threat.
On Monday, veteran IOC member Dick Pound said that the Olympic delay was decided and that it would defenitely not start on July 24.
Athletes were disappointed but broadly endorsed the delay, given health risks and disruption to their training as gyms, stadia and swimming pools shut down around the world.
“I compete in a little bike race, which is nothing compared to what is going on in the world right now,” American Olympic BMX champion Connor Fields said, before the official announcement. “No sport is more important if it means more people might potentially die from this.”
Australia’s two-time Olympic champion swimmer, Cate Campbell, said she was reeling but ready for the new challenge.
“The goal posts haven’t disappeared – just shifted,” she said after her nation had announced it would not go to Tokyo 2020 if it went ahead.
U.S. skateboarder and gold medal hopeful Nyjah Huston was frustrated, though, especially given his sport was scheduled to make its debut at the Tokyo.
“When skating finally makes it in the Olympics then it gets postponed,” the 25-year-old wrote on Instagram after a delay had begun to look inevitable. “I was feelin (sic) ready too … now I’m going to have to be a year older for this!”
The coronavirus outbreak has raged around the world since early this year, infecting nearly 380,000 people and wrecking sports events from the soccer Euros to Formula One.
Despite their disappointment, not to mention the logistical headaches and financial losses coming, a poll showed about 70% of Japanese agreed with a delay.