For the first time ever, the Olympic Games have been postponed.
On Tuesday Japanese President Shinzo Abe and International Olympic Committee (IOC) reached an agreement to reschedule the quadrennial event by one year amid rising fears over the Coronavirus pandemic that has taken thousands of lives globally.
In a joint statement by officials, the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee was praised for its work so far and for the progress in Japan against the COVID-19 threat.
“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.
“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.” – Joint Statement
The quick decision was widely expected after athletes and federations had called for the delay while training conditions around the world were rapidly deteriorating, and on Monday the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) announced that it would not send its athletes to the Games this year.
Last week the IOC had announced that a decision on the Games’ schedule would take place in four weeks.
After his telephone talks with IOC President Bach, PM Abe spoke to the press and explained that the two have agreed that the Tokyo Olympic Games would not be cancelled, and the games will be held by the summer of 2021. pic.twitter.com/ihe8To2g3R
— PM's Office of Japan (@JPN_PMO) March 24, 2020
The Games that were originally organized to symbolize Japan’s recovery from the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck the nation in 2011 will now take on a new meaning, to instead symbolize the world’s victory over the novel coronavirus.
The Summer Games were previously cancelled three times during the two World Wars – in 1916, 1940 and 1944. The Winter Games were cancelled in 1940 and 1944.
More to come as story develops…
A senior producer and award-winning journalist covering Olympic bid business as founder of GamesBids.com as well as providing freelance support for print and Web publications around the world. Robert Livingstone is a member of the Olympic Journalists Association and the International Society of Olympic Historians.