By Pau Aguilar of Spain.
Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, and the International Olympic Committee president, Thomas Bach, agree to delay the event
The Tokyo Olympics are to be postponed until 2021 after talks between Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, and the International Olympic Committee president, Thomas Bach.
Abe said they had established that cancelling the Games was out of the question, and that Bach had agreed “100%” that a postponement was the most appropriate response to the global disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“We agreed that a postponement would be the best way to ensure that the athletes are in peak condition when they compete and to guarantee the safety of the spectators,” Abe told reporters shortly after his conference call with Bach, adding that the Games would be held by the summer of 2021.Advertisement
The Games “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 and the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee said later in a joint statement.
The Olympic Games and Paralympic Games will continue to be called the “Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020” even if they are held next year, and the Olympic flame will stay in Japan “as a beacon of hope to the world during these troubled times”.
Until just a few days ago the IOC, along with the Tokyo organising committee and the Japanese government, had insisted there were no plans to delay the Olympics given they were not due to open for another four months but Japan’s NHK public television reported on Tuesday that Abe wanted the one-year delay.
Tokyo 2020’s fate was in effect sealed this week when Canada and Australia said they would not send athletes to Japan in July, while the British and French governments urged the IOC to make a quick decision.
The US Olympic and Paralympic committee followed suit, citing the “enormous” disruption the pandemic had caused to training and the qualification processWorld Athletics, the Olympic committees of Brazil, Slovenia and Germany, USA Swimming and USA Track and Field had joined the growing chorus of calls for a new date for the event.
The postponement is a blow to the host country, which has spent more than $12bn on the event, while huge sums are also at stake for sponsors and broadcasters. Goldman Sachs estimated this month that Japan would lose $4.5bn (550bn yen) in inbound and domestic consumption in 2020 if the Olympics did not take place as planned.
The Nikkei, a Japanese business daily, claimed on Monday that G7 leaders had agreed to a postponement during their teleconference last week, after Abe persuaded them that cancellation was not an option. Abe told the group that he was determined to hold the Games “in their complete form” – with the full quota of athletes and spectators – as a symbol of the world’s triumph over coronavirus, the Nikkei said. Boris Johnson reportedly responded with a thumbs-up, while other leaders nodded their approval.
But Abe then hinted that postponement was a possibility. “If the IOC’s decision means it becomes impossible to hold the Olympics in their complete form, then a decision may have to be made to postpone them,” he told parliament on Monday.
The host nation greeted the IOC’s decision to postpone the Games by up to a year with a mixture of disappointment and resignation. Opinion polls taken before the announcement indicated that the Japanese public had already accepted that Tokyo 2020 would be sport’s biggest victims of the coronavirus pandemic. According to a Kyodo news poll last week, almost 70% of respondents said they did not expect the Games to go ahead this summer.
The Games have never before been postponed in this way, but they were cancelled in 1916, 1940 – also a planned Tokyo Games – and 1944, during the first and second world wars.