Tokyo Olympic Games to be delayed until 2021

Tokyo Organising Committee and IOC agree to postpone the Olympics for the first time in its history

(Image credit: Yuzuru SUNADA)

The 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo will be delayed by a year until 2021, with the International Olympic Committee saying it was a necessary step "to safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games and the international community."

Prime minister Shinzo Abe and the Tokyo Organising Committee have agreed with the IOC president Thomas Bach to delay the Games by a year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

On Monday IOC member Dick Pound revealed that it was almost certain the Olympics would be delayed until summer 2021, with the IOC on Sunday having originally given itself a four-week deadline to make a decision on postponing the Games.

Abe reportedly proposed a postponement with Bach in a conference call, according to Japanese media outlet NHK, with the IOC confirming later on Tuesday afternoon.

The IOC was already facing a backlash from National Olympic Committees and athletes over its delay on making a decision to postpone the Games. Canada and Australian said they would not send any athletes, with France and Britain signalling they would follow suit.

The highly contageous Covid-19 virus has caused a worldwide crisis, with countries around the globe going on various levels of lockdown to restrict the movement of citizens. There have been almost 375,000 reported cases worldwide of the virus, with over 16,000 deaths as of March 24.

The influx of thousands of people to Tokyo for the Games in July would pose significant risk of the virus spreading further, with health services already under strain as cases increase.

Moving the Games for the first time in its 124-year history may have a significant economic impact on Japan however, with Goldman Sachs estimating the country would lose $4.5 billion dollars in inbound and domestic consumption should the Games move, having already spent $12 billion in preparation.

Dick Pound told Reuters that the IOC had not wanted to rush to a decision so it could discuss alternative plans with the hosts, but said its hand was forced with the rapid spread of the coronavirus: “Probably what turned the tide in the last couple of days is the curve on the Covid-19 virus. It is getting very, very steep now and this is clearly not something that is going to be under control by June or July and probably not by the end of the year,” Pound said.

In cycling, no events will take place until April 30 under the UCI’s ruling, though May’s Giro d’Italia has already been postponed because of the virus. The Tour de France is still set to go ahead, with organisers ASO yet to comment on the status of the race since the coronavirus outbreak.

The Olympic road race and time trials were originally set to take place between July 25 and July 29, while the track events were scheduled for August 3 to August 7.

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