It didn’t take a genius to work out that the Olympic Games would be suspended in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, although organisers did their best to keep everyone guessing with conspicuous silence on the matter.
However, it has now been officially confirmed that the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo will be delayed until next year to allow the spread of COVID-19 to be contained.
The Games were due to start on July 24 in Japan, but it has been obvious for a while now that would be impossible in the wake of a global sporting shutdown.
But the International Olympic Committee (IOC) delayed their reaction on the inevitable postponement to the extent that many nations, including notably Canada, had to formally announce they would not be sending athletes to Tokyo for health reasons.
Forced into action, it was actually the Japanese Prime Minister who made the first move, and the IOC have now stated that the Games will be rescheduled for ‘no later than summer 2021.
“I proposed to postpone for a year and [IOC] president Thomas Bach responded with 100% agreement,” so said the Japanese PM, Shinzo Abe.
The Paralympic Games have also been put back a year, and curiously the Olympics will still be officially described as Tokyo 2020 despite the rescheduled date.
And a joint statement from Japan and the IOC read:
“The unprecedented and unpredictable spread of the outbreak has seen the situation in the rest of the world deteriorating.
“On Monday, the director general of the World Health Organization, 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.”
All of which ensures that sports fans can enjoy a bumper summer next year, with the Olympics and football’s European Championships – among may more major sporting events yet to be given a new date – at least offering plenty to look forward to.
Athletic Stars Force IOC’s Hand
According to reports, the IOC had imposed upon itself a four-week deadline for deciding whether or not the Olympic Games of 2020 would go ahead as planned.
But in the end, the decision was starting to be made for them as a number of major nations and individuals announced that they would not be travelling to Tokyo regardless of the IOC’s own take.
In the end, it was Canada who broke ranks first when their Olympic Committee announced a complete withdrawal from the events.
“While we recognise the inherent complexities around a postponement, nothing is more important than the health and safety of our athletes and the world community,” their statement read.
They were followed, albeit tentatively, by neighbours USA, who called for a postponement, while the British Olympic Association had scheduled a meeting for today to discuss their plans. Chairman Hugh Robertson had already confirmed they were likely to withdraw Team GB from the Games.
The row had punctuated much of the sporting spectrum, with the head of World Athletics – Sebastian Coe – writing personally to Bach to tell him that holding the Olympics in 2020 was ‘neither feasible nor desirable’.
Aside from during the two World Wars, the Olympic Games have never before been delayed in their history, which dates back well over a century.
Boycotts during the Cold War saw the Games of 1980 and 1984 weakened, but never before has the whole event been postponed for a later date.