Japan, International Olympic Committee agree to postpone Tokyo Games
)–Facing heavy global pressure and rising athlete dissent, the International Olympic Committee sharply reversed course Tuesday and agreed with Japanese officials that the Olympics and Paralympics will not take place this summer in Tokyo in the wake of the growing novel coronavirus
pandemic. Organizers say they now hope to stage the
Games by the summer of 2021.
The Olympics are the biggest event to date that has been scuttled due to the virus, which has now claimed at least 16,767 lives and has infected more than 387,000 people on six of the seven continents, upend daily lives and forcing the postponement and cancellations of sporting events, concerts and conferences across the globe.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday proposed a one-year postponement to IOC leadership, including President Thomas Bach. The IOC quickly agreed the Games would be held about one year after the previously scheduled start date, July 24.
“I have made a proposal of about a year,” Abe said. “President Bach said he agreed 100 percent and we agreed to hold the Olympics by summer 2021.”
Abe said he and Bach had agreed “to cooperate in order to hold the Olympics in the complete form, as a testament to victory over the infection.”
In a joint statement, the IOC and Japan’s Olympic organizing committee said they made the decision “to safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games and the international community.” Athletes across the world had been calling for the Olympics to be postponed, saying the lack of a decision forced them to continue training at risk to their physical and mental well-being.
The Olympic flame will remain in Japan, and the Olympics still will be labeled Tokyo 2020, even though they will take place in 2021.
“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 statement said.
Abe called Bach on Tuesday night in Japan to offer his plan. The proposal came a day after the United States joined a global chorus of Olympic governing bodies advocating for a postponement, some of which had vowed not to send athletes if the Games began in July as scheduled.