The International Olympic Committee (IOC) have confirmed the postponement of the 2020 Olympic Games.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had earlier Tuesday revealed that he and the head of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach have agreed on the idea of delaying the Tokyo Olympics by about one year.
This afternoon the IOC released a statement confirming the postponement until not later than summer of 2021.
“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,” read the statement.
Abe was speaking to reporters after a phone call with IOC President Bach on postponing the Games amid growing concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.
“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 percent.”
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike separately told reporters the Games, to be convened by summer of 2021, would still be branded “Tokyo 2020”.
Organisers and the IOC had both long insisted the Games would go ahead as planned from 24 July but, as the virus spread, opposition to the Games mounted, forcing them on Sunday to say they were considering postponement in a four-week consultation period.
That, however, partly backfired as athletes and National Olympic Committees demanded an immediate decision to plan their year.
The Olympics have never been delayed in their 124-year modern history, though they were cancelled altogether in 1916, 1940 and 1944 during the two world wars. Cold War boycotts disrupted the Moscow and Los Angeles Games in 1980 and 1984.
Athletes were sad but relieved after weeks of worrying and struggling to train as the world headed into virtual lockdown from the disease that has claimed more than 16,500 lives.
“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. “No sport is more important if it means more people might potentially die from this.”
“To be honest, I’m left reeling and feeling a little lost. But the goal posts haven’t disappeared – just shifted. It’s time to recalibrate and fire up for the next challenge,” said Australia’s two-time Olympic champion swimmer, Cate Campbell.
The coronavirus outbreak has raged around the world since early this year, infecting nearly 380,000 people and wrecking sports events from Euro 2020 to Formula One.
Postponement is a massive logistical headache for hosts Japan, which has pumped in more than $12 billion of investment. But a poll showed about 70% of the Japanese agree with a delay.