The Olympic and Paralympic Games have been postponed until summer 2021 at the latest due to the coronavirus pandemic.
A joint statement from the International Olympic Committee and the Tokyo 2020 organising committee confirmed the news, following a conference call on Tuesday.
The Games – which had been due to get under way on July 24 – will not now take place in 2020, but will happen no later than the summer of 2021.
“In the present circumstances and based on the information provided by the WHO (World Health Organisation) 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 statement read.
“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.
Joint Statement from the International Olympic Committee and the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committeehttps://t.co/XNcaa4Gvx8
— Olympics (@Olympics) March 24, 2020
“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 conference call featured Bach, Abe, plus Tokyo 2020 organising committee president Yoshiro Mori, Olympics minister Seiko Hashimoto, the governor of Tokyo Yuriko Koike, the chair of the IOC’s co-ordination commission John Coates, IOC director general Christophe De Kepper and IOC Olympic Games executive director Christophe Dubi.
The decision to delay was praised in a joint statement from the British Olympic Association, British Paralympic Association and elite sports funding body UK Sport, who said athletes’ ability to train and prepare had been “compromised irreparably” by the virus.
BOA chief executive Andy Anson said: “It is with profound sadness that we accept the postponement, but in all consciousness it is the only decision we can support, in light of the devastating impact Covid-19 is having on our nation, our communities and our families.
“It would have been unthinkable for us to continue to prepare for an Olympic Games at a time the nation and the world no less is enduring great hardship. A postponement is the right decision.”
— Team GB (@TeamGB) March 22, 2020
“Alongside UK Sport and the BPA, we have consulted with the national governing bodies of summer Olympic and Paralympic sports and with athlete representative groups, including our athletes’ commissions and the British athletes’ commission.
“It is with their input and support that we have a unanimous view that the impact of Covid-19 on athletes’ training and preparation means their regimes are now compromised irreparably. It is time for them to stop thinking about Tokyo 2020 for now and be home and safe with their families.
UK Sport chief executive Sally Munday said: “We welcome today’s decision from the IOC, IPC and Japan that the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games will be postponed.
#TeamCanada will not send athletes to Games in summer 2020 due to COVID-19 risks.
— Team Canada (@TeamCanada) March 23, 2020
“Given the unprecedented global challenge we face, today’s news means that athletes, their coaches and support staff can now fully focus on what really matters at this terribly difficult time, keeping themselves and their families safe.
“We are working closely with government to ensure we can effectively support sports and their athletes through this distressing period.”
The Canadian Olympic and Paralympic committees had already announced they would not compete in Tokyo this summer, while the Australians had told their athletes to prepare for a postponement to the summer of 2021.
Team USA said it had surveyed its athletes with nearly 93 per cent of the 1,780 respondents preferring to see the Games postponed rather than outright cancelled, while 68 per cent said the event could not be fairly competed if continued as scheduled.
— DOSB (@DOSB) March 24, 2020
The Germany Olympic Committee said a postponement decision was “long overdue”.
Its statement, released prior to the official announcement, read: “The examination of the relocation is a correct step of the IOC, which is long overdue in view of the current global health situation, because this now clearly signals internally and externally that the implementation of the Games is clearly subordinate to world health.”
Moving the Games will carry some cost, but it is not anticipated there will be a major clamour from sponsorship and broadcast partners.
Games venues – already built at an estimated cost of over £12billion – will still be utilised if the event does manage to go ahead in 2021.
The International Paralympic Committee said the decision was “absolutely the right thing to do”.
IPC president Andrew Parsons added: “Sport is not the most important thing right now – preserving human life is. It is essential therefore that all steps are taken to try and limit the spread of this disease.
“At a time when many major communities around the world are in lockdown, with workplaces and shops closed and people urged not to leave their own homes, continuing to pursue the dream of the Tokyo 2020 Games happening this year does not make sense; postponement is the only logical option.”