The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the government of Japan have confirmed that the Tokyo Olympic Games, scheduled to start from 24 July, will be postponed as a result of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
With more than 375,000 confirmed cases of the virus around the world, the decision has been taken to reschedule the event at a date “beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021”.
This, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and IOC president Thomas Bach explained, was to safeguard the health of athletes and everybody involved in the organisation of the games.
“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 pair said in a joint statement.
“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.”
Pressure had been building on the organisers to cancel the event, with Canada and Australia yesterday announcing that they had withdrawn their athletes from all competitions.
It follows the postponement of most major sporting events as a result of the pandemic, with almost all major professional sports across Europe and the US already shut down. Over the weekend it was then announced that Australia’s major leagues, including the National Rugby League, Australian Football League and the A-League, were also being suspended.
Currently there are few sports leagues still completing fixtures, such as the Belarussian football leagues and Russian basketball leagues. Baseball looks likely to return to Japan and South Korea in the coming weeks, however, with Nippon Professional Baseball and the KBO League aiming to restart in April.