Tokyo Olympics: Japan, IOC officially agree to postpone Summer Games to 2021

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics will have to wait. Japan and the International Olympic Committee agreed on Tuesday to push the games to 2021. The decision came after multiple conversations between Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and IOC president Thomas Bach. This marks only the fourth time in the history of the modern Olympics (which dates back to 1896), that the Games are being postponed. The three other times the games had to be pushed back were due to World War I and World War II.

On Monday, IOC member Dick Pound told USA Today that the games will likely be pushed to 2021, and that a plan will be put in place on how to proceed in the next four weeks.

“On the basis of the information the IOC has, postponement has been decided,” Pound said. “The parameters going forward have not been determined, but the Games are not going to start on July 24, that much I know… We will postpone this and begin to deal with all the ramifications of moving this, which are immense.”

But despite Pound’s statements, IOC vice president Anita DeFrantz said at the time that she had not heard anything about the games being postponed.

“If that is the case, then you know more than a vice-president of the International Olympic Committee,” she said, referencing Pound’s announcement. “It would be news to me.”

Following the comments from Pound and DeFrantz, the USOPC issued a formal statement on Monday night officially requesting that the IOC postpone the Olympic Games scheduled for July after the committee surveyed its 1,780 athletes.

“We are thankful to the 1,780 Team USA athletes for sharing their voice and honest input with us as we address the issues related to COVID-19 and the Tokyo Games, and make good on our promise to put athletes first. We are now confident that we have heard a wide range of viewpoints and understand the diversity of challenges our athletes face. We regret that there is no outcome that can solve all the concerns we face. Our most important conclusion from this broad athlete response is that even if the current significant health concerns could be alleviated by late summer, the enormous disruptions to the training environment, doping controls and qualification process can’t be overcome in a satisfactory manner. To that end, it’s more clear than ever that the path toward postponement is the most promising, and we encourage the IOC to take all needed steps to ensure the Games can be conducted under safe and fair conditions for all competitors. We look forward to their feedback and direction, and stand ready to work in support of Team USA and in full cooperation with the global community.”

The announcement to officially postpone the games also comes just days after both Canada and Australia said they would not be sending athletes to the 2020 Games in Tokyo. There has been rising concern and debate over the start date of the 2020 Games over the past few months amid the coronavirus pandemic. With the CDC placing restrictions on large gatherings and the virus continuing to spread worldwide, speculation over a possible delay or outright cancellation of the Games had begun picking up steam in recent weeks. 

Organizers began planning for a potential delay in mid-March when the IOC released a statement saying they were looking into the scenario and conducting full assessments of the outbreak. 

“The IOC will, in full coordination and partnership with the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee, the Japanese authorities and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, start detailed discussions to complete its assessment of the rapid development of the worldwide health situation and its impact on the Olympic Games, including the scenario of postponement,” read the IOC’s statement. 

In addition to concerns about further spreading the bug, the coronavirus has caused major disruptions to athlete training regiments and preliminary qualifying events. The USA Track and Field and USA Swimming federations both called for the postponement of the Olympics, USA Swimming chief executive Tim Hinchey requested that the Olympics be pushed back one year in order to minimize risk and cater to the needs of the athletes involved. 

“As this global pandemic has grown, we have watched our athletes’ worlds be turned upside down and watched them struggle to find ways to continue to prepare and train — many for the biggest competitive opportunity of their lives,” wrote Hinchey. “Our world class swimmers are always willing to race anyone, anytime and anywhere; however, pressing forward amidst the global health crisis this summer is not the answer.”

A number of other major sports organizations have postponed their seasons amid concerns of the outbreak, including the NBA, NHL, MLS and MLB. CBS News has the latest updates about the virus.

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