TOKYO (AP) — The Tokyo Olympics were postponed until 2021 on Tuesday, ending weeks of speculation that the games could not go ahead as scheduled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The International Olympic Committee made the decision after speaking with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and local organizers.
The IOC said the games will be held “not later than summer 2021” but they will still be called the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
“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 IOC said in a statement.
Before the official announcement, Abe said Bach had agreed with his proposal for a one-year postponement.
“President Bach said he will agree ‘100%,’ and we agreed to hold the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics in the summer of 2021 at the latest,” Abe said, saying holding the games next year would be “proof of a victory by human beings against the coronavirus infections.”
The decision came only a few hours after local organizers said the torch relay would start as planned on Thursday. Those plans also changed.
“For the time being, the flame will be stored and displayed in Fukushima,” organizing committee president Yoshiro Mori said.
The Olympics have never before been postponed, and have only ever previously been canceled in wartime.
The IOC and Tokyo organizers said they hope the decision to postpone will help the world heal from the pandemic.
“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,” the IOC statement said. “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 International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee released the following statement Tuesday:
THE PRESIDENT OF THE INTERNATIONAL OLYMPIC COMMITTEE (IOC), THOMAS BACH, AND THE PRIME MINISTER OF JAPAN, ABE SHINZO, HELD A CONFERENCE CALL THIS MORNING TO DISCUSS THE CONSTANTLY CHANGING ENVIRONMENT WITH REGARD TO COVID-19 AND THE OLYMPIC GAMES TOKYO 2020.
They were joined by Mori Yoshiro, the President of the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee; the Olympic Minister, Hashimoto Seiko; the Governor of Tokyo, Koike Yuriko; the Chair of the IOC Coordination Commission, John Coates; IOC Director General Christophe De Kepper; and the IOC Olympic Games Executive Director, Christophe Dubi.
President Bach and Prime Minister Abe expressed their shared concern about the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, and what it is doing to people’s lives and the significant impact it is having on global athletes’ preparations for the Games.
In a very friendly and constructive meeting, the two leaders praised the work of the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee and noted the great progress being made in Japan to fight against COVID-19.
The unprecedented and unpredictable spread of the outbreak has seen the situation in the rest of the world deteriorating. Yesterday, the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said that the COVID-19 pandemic is “accelerating”. There are more than 375,000 cases now recorded worldwide and in nearly every country, and their number is growing by the hour.
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 FROM THE INTERNATIONAL OLYMPIC COMMITTEE AND THE TOKYO 2020 ORGANISING COMMITTEE
The following note was sent from USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland to Team USA athletes as soon as the International Olympic Committee confirmed plans to postpone the Tokyo 2020 Games:
Team USA Athletes:
Despite the feeling of eventuality that so many of us have felt in the lead up to this moment – my heart breaks for you, your fellow athletes around the world, our friends at Tokyo 2020, the people of Japan, and all who are impacted by this global pandemic and the decision to postpone the Tokyo Games 2020.
We heard your concerns and we shared them. I thank you for being so forthcoming with your perspectives, and also for allowing us the time to hear from your teammates across all sports before making a recommendation to the IOC.
With this decision, the work of planning a new version of the Tokyo Games is now officially underway.
At the same time, we know from you, it’s important that the process of ensuring it is a fair and equitable Games be given equal attention. Working in partnership with athletes, NGBs, International Federations, the IOC and IPC, we’ll (re)define standards for selection and anti-doping, and ensure the reimagined Games live up to the original promise of Tokyo 2020.
This summer was supposed to be a culmination of your hard work and life’s dream, but taking a step back from competition to care for our communities and each other is the right thing to do. Your moment will wait until we can gather again safely.
I wish I had answers to every question out there, but the reality is this decision is unprecedented, and therefore, presents an entirely new process – for you, for the organizers, for the NGBs and for the USOPC. Please know we are committed to working with you in the coming days, weeks, and months to address them together.
In the meantime, please focus on taking care of yourself and your community. If you need support or have questions, please come to us or your NGB or the Athlete Ombudsman (firstname.lastname@example.org). We are here to help. As a reminder, we have expanded our mental health services available to you during this time.
The excellence within Team USA is our resilience and how we overcome adversity. I have no doubt we will get through this together as a team, and all be better because of it.
I sincerely look forward to working with you as we once again plan our path to Tokyo.
Wishing you all my very best and go Team USA!
SarahUSOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland
TOKYO (AP/ KARK) — IOC President Thomas Bach has agreed “100%” to a proposal of postponing the Tokyo Olympics for about one year until 2021 because of the coronavirus outbreak, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tuesday.
Abe said after his telephone talks with Bach that he requested a postponement “taking into consideration the current circumstances” and to secure an environment in which athletes can perform at their best and crowds can be safe and secure.
He added that he hoped to reschedule the Olympics as a proof of human victory over the coronavirus pandemic.
Abe held telephone talks with Bach after the IOC said it would make a decision on the Tokyo Games over the next four weeks.
Abe said he expects the pandemic to be over by next year and the Olympics can be held by the summer of 2021 at the latest.
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