Organisers of the 2020 Olympic Games scheduled to begin on 24 July in Tokyo, Japan, have agreed to a one-year postponement of the event because of the global Covid-19 pandemic.
Speaking to reporters yesterday, Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, said the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had agreed to the delay.
“I proposed to postpone for about a year and (IOC) President, Thomas Bach, responded with 100% agreement,” Abe announced.
Before yesterday’s postponement, Canada and Australia had stepped down their participation in Tokyo 2020 due to the widespread of the virus globally.
Several qualifiers not concluded yet were either cancelled or suspended indefinitely.
Just on Monday, UEFA postponed the finals of both the Champions League and the Europa League earlier scheduled for May till later in the year. The UCL is still in the Round of Last 16.
In a joint statement yesterday, both Abe abd Bach said that based on current World Health Organization (WHO) information, the Tokyo Games “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 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,” the statement concluded.
The Olympics, which has experienced boycotts, terrorist attacks and protests, but has been held every four years since 1948, is the highest-profile event affected by the virus that has killed thousands and closed sports competitions worldwide.
Bach said the decision to postpone was “about protecting human life”.
Squeezing in the 16-day Games into what will already be a hugely crowded 2021 calendar is another major headache, with arguably the two biggest sports, swimming and athletics, due to hold their world championships that summer.
However, World Athletics has already said it was prepared to shift its world championships, scheduled for August 6-15 next year in Eugene, Oregon, to accommodate a rescheduled Games.
“World Athletics welcomes the decision of the IOC and the Japanese Government to postpone the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games to 2021,” track and field’s global governing body said.
“It is what athletes want and we believe this decision will give all athletes, technical officials and volunteers some respite and certainty in these unprecedented and uncertain times.”
British sprinter Dina Asher-Smith, the world 200m champion, posted on Instagram: “#Tokyo2021, Same fire, new dates. Stay at home and stay safe everyone xxx.”
The IOC came under increasing pressure in recent days to postpone the Games, with 1.7 billion people across the planet in lockdown to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.
On Sunday, the IOC had initially given itself a deadline of four weeks to come up with a proposal to postpone the Games, a Herculean task that touches on every aspect of Tokyo 2020 planning from venues to security to ticketing.
But after Canada and Australia withdrew their teams and the powerful US Olympic Committee and World Athletics also joined the chorus calling for a postponement, the writing was on the wall.
Tokyo was spending some $12.6 billion to host the Games, according to its latest budget, and experts believe a postponement could cost it some $6 billion in the short-term before recouping it when they eventually go ahead.