Olympics postponed: IOC head and Japan PM agree to delay Games to 2021

  • Other Sports
  • Wednesday, 25 Mar 2020

It’s off for now: A man wearing a face mask walks in front of the Olympic Rings in Tokyo. Japan has asked for a one-year postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Games over the global coronavirus pandemic, and the International Olympic Committee have agreed, the country’s prime minister said yesterday. — AFP

TOKYO/ATHENS: Japan and the Olympics movement decided to delay this year’s Tokyo Games into 2021 as the coronavirus crisis obliterated the world’s last major imminent sporting event.

It was the first time in the Olympics’ 124-year history that they had been postponed, though they were cancelled outright several times during the two 20th century World Wars.

After a call with International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the July 24-Aug 9 event would be rescheduled for the summer of 2021 at the latest as proof of victory over the coronavirus.

“We asked President Bach to consider postponement of about one year to make it possible for athletes to play in the best condition, and to make the event a safe and secure one for spectators,” Abe said.

“President Bach said he is in agreement 100 per cent.”

The IOC had previously acknowledged the growing pressure on the games, caused by the coronavirus outbreak and its impact on travel and athletes’ ability to train and participate in qualifying competition. But it had said that the definitive decision to go ahead or postpone would be made in mid-April.

However, a cancellation or delay became increasingly inevitable when both Canada and Australia on Monday said that they would not participate this summer.

The US Olympic and Paralympic committee said that decision needed to made more speedily. It cited the enormous disruption to training and qualifying already wreaked by the virus pandemic. “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,” the committee said in a statement.

As recently as Sunday the IOC said they would mull scenarios that “relate to modifying existing operational plans for the Games to go ahead on 24 July 2020, and also for changes to the start date of the Games.”

But by Monday Senior IOC member Dick Pound went public with a statement saying that the IOC had already decided to postpone the Olympics for a year.

He said that the IOC still needed time to negotiate with the Japanese authorities in order that a clear alternative plan could be proposed. But other IOC members said that Pound was only speaking in a personal capacity.

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.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike told reporters the delayed Games would still be branded “Tokyo 2020”. — Reuters

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