UPDATED: 3/24/20 – 0700PT
This summer’s Olympic Games, due to start in Tokyo on 24 July, have been postponed until next year because of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic. The games will now take place “no later than summer 2021”, the International Olympic (IOC) confirmed earlier today.
“I proposed to postpone for a year and [IOC] president Thomas Bach responded with 100% agreement,” Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said.
The Tokyo Paralympic Games will also be postponed until 2021. The event will still be called Tokyo 2020 despite taking place in 2021, the IOC said.
It will be the first time in the event’s long history that a games has been postponed.
No official decision has been made, or statement issued, but Japan finally acknowledged yesterday that this summer’s Olympic Games will have to be postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that if the games cannot be held in “a complete form we have to decide to postpone them, giving top priority to the health of the athletes.” He did add that cancellation is not an option. In Europe, the European football (soccer) tournament, like the Olympics an every 4-year event, has been postponed from this summer to summer 2021. The Olympics could follow suit.
The remarks from the PM came shortly before Canada became the first country to boycott the Tokyo Games due to the coronavirus pandemic and Australia told its athletes to prepare for an Olympics next year.
“This is not solely about athlete health – it is about public health,” the committee said in a statement, explaining that it was not safe for the athletes, their families, and the broader Canadian community to continue training towards the games. “In fact, it runs counter to the public health advice which we urge all Canadians to follow.”
In a statement today, the Australian Olympic Committee also told its athletes to prepare for the games to be delayed until 2021, noting that the Australian team “could not be assembled in the changing circumstances at home and abroad.”
More and more national teams called for the games to be pushed back. In a letter on Friday, USA Swimming urged the country’s Olympics committee to advocate for a delay, and USA Track and Field quickly followed with a similar statement. Slovenia, Norway, and Brazil have all called for the games to be postponed.
The International Olympic Committee said it is starting discussions on a possible postponement of this summer’s games, and set a deadline for a final decision within four weeks.
Previously, world wars led to the cancelation of the 1916, 1940, and 1944 games. Large boycotts during the Cold War limited participation in the 1980 and 1984 games, although they still went ahead.