The 2020 Olympics in Tokyo has been postponed due to coronavirus by request of the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
More than 600,000 overseas visitors were expected to travel to Japan for the latest edition of the world’s biggest sporting event, initially scheduled to run from July 24 until August 9.
However, those plans are no longer considered viable due to the ongoing global Covid-19 pandemic that has led to more than 15,000 deaths worldwide in addition to seeing strict restrictions placed on every day life in several countries and sporting competitions grind to a halt.
The agreement to postpone was communicated on Tuesday following a phone call involving Mr Abe and International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach. The official statement is as follow:
“The IOC president and the Prime Minister of Japan have concluded that 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 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.
“Therefore, it was agreed that the Olympic flame will stay in Japan.”
It is the first time the Olympics have been postponed in peacetime, though they were previously cancelled in 1916, 1940 and 1944 due to the First and Second World Wars respectively.
Mr Abe told the press on Tuesday that Bach had fully agreed with the proposal to postpone the Games, which he expects to be held by summer 2021 at the latest.
“We asked President Bach to consider postponement of about one year to make it possible for athletes to play in the best condition, and to make the event a safe and secure one for spectators,” he said.
“President Bach said he is in agreement 100 percent.”
A potential postponement scenario – but not outright cancellation – was first considered by the IOC amid growing pressure on Sunday, when they said a decision could be expected within the next four weeks.
However, the situation quickly escalated further when the National Olympic and Paralympic Committees from Canada jointly-announced they would not be sending athletes to a Games held this summer.
Australia subsequently confirmed they had instructed athletes to prepare for an Olympics in 2021, while the British Olympic Association (BOA) also joined calls for the Games to be pushed back, with chairman Hugh Robertson stating that he did not believe there was “any way” GB could send a team this summer if the coronavirus crisis continues as anticipated.