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The Olympic Rings are displayed at the entrance of the IOC in Lausanne, Switzerland, Tuesday. Photo: Keystone via AP
2020 tokyo olympics

Tokyo Olympics in 2021 will be beacon of hope, says IOC

34 Comments
By Eddie Pells, Stephen Wade and Mari Yamaguchi

The IOC announced a first-of-its-kind postponement of the Summer Olympics on Tuesday, bowing to the realities of a coronavirus pandemic that is shutting down daily life around the globe and making planning for a massive worldwide gathering in July a virtual impossibility.

The International Olympic Committee said the Tokyo 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,” the IOC said in a statement released after IOC chief Thomas Bach held a teleconference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday night.

Abe said that he requested a postponement “taking into consideration the current circumstances” and to secure an environment in which athletes can perform at their best and crowds can be safe and secure.

He added that he hoped to reschedule the Olympics as a proof of human victory over the coronavirus pandemic.

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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe talks to journalists in front of the prime minister's residence in Tokyo on Tuesday night. Photo: Charly Triballeau/Pool Photo via AP

It was an announcement seen as all but a certainty as pressure mounted from nervous athletes, sports organizations and national Olympic committees — all forced to deal with training and qualifying schedules, to say nothing of international anti-doping protocols, that have been ruptured beyond repair.

Four-time Olympic hockey champion Hayley Wickenheiser, the first IOC member to criticize the body's reluctance to postpone, called it the “message athletes deserved to hear.”

“To all the athletes: take a breath, regroup, take care of yourself and your families. Your time will come,” she wrote on Twitter.

IOC President Thomas Bach and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe spoke via phone Tuesday morning, and they, along with a handful of executives from the IOC and Japan’s organizing committee, agreed to make the call to delay games that have been reported to cost upward of $28 billion to stage.

Other Olympics — 1916, 1940 and 1944 — have been canceled because of war, but none have ever been postponed for any reason, let alone a renegade virus that has accounted for more than 375,000 cases worldwide, with numbers growing exponentially. The Tokyo Games would still be called the 2020 Olympics, even though they will be held in 2021 — the first time the games will be held in an odd-numbered year since the modern era began in 1896.

The decision offers a sense of relief for the 11,000 or so potential Olympians from more than 200 countries, who no longer have to press forward with training under near-impossible conditions, unsure of when, exactly, they need to be ready — and for what.

“Thankful to finally have some clarity regarding The Olympic Games. A huge decision but I think the right one for sure,” British sprinter Adam Gemili said on Twitter. "Time to regain, look after each other during this difficult period and go again when the time is right!"

One reason the IOC took longer to make the decision was because it wanted to figure out logistics. It will be a daunting challenge. Many of the arenas, stadiums and hotels are under contract for a games held from July 24 to August 9. Remaking those arrangements is doable, but will come at a cost. There are also considerations beyond the price tag. Among them: The $1 billion-plus the IOC was to receive from NBC, the millions in smaller athlete endorsement contracts that are now in limbo, the budgets of the individual national Olympic committees, to name a few.

There’s also the matter of the international sports schedule. Nearly all 33 sports on the Olympic program have key events, including world championships, on the docket for 2021. Perhaps the best example of what a disruption this can cause would come from track. Famous Hayward Field at University of Oregon was rebuild and expanded at the cost of $200 million to hold next year’s world championships. Now that event will likely be postponed.

“There are a lot of pieces of a huge and very difficult jigsaw puzzle," Bach said.

But for weeks, it was becoming increasingly clear that pressing on with a July 24 starting date was no longer a choice.

Just about every sport across the globe has suspended play in the wake of the pandemic. The worldwide economy is faltering and people are increasingly being told it's not safe to congregate in large groups or, in some cases, even to leave their homes. Gyms are closed across America. Holding Olympic trials in a matter of months was becoming untenable.

Olympic committees in Canada and Australia were saying they either would not, or could not, send a team to Tokyo in July. World Athletics and the three biggest sports in the United States — swimming, track and gymnastics — were calling for a postponement.

As recently as Sunday, the IOC was saying it would take up to four weeks to reach a decision. Four weeks ended up being two days.

The decision came only a few hours after local organizers said the torch relay would start as planned on Thursday. It was expected to start in northeastern Fukushima prefecture, but with no torch, no torchbearers and no public.

Those plans also changed.

The flame will be stored and displayed in Fukushima. Like everything else in the Olympic world, its next move will be determined at a later date.

"I'm thrilled for the athletes,’ Bob Bowman, who used to coach Michael Phelps and now works with other Olympic hopefuls, told The Associated Press. “That’s what this is all about at the end of the day, and really the world that gets to share in their journey and be a part of it. Now we can have a real Olympics that is healthy and fair.”

© Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

34 Comments
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Now, we will see if they were holding back on testing because of the summer games or not. I expect to see a bump in the reported cases of the virus.

17 ( +21 / -4 )

I just hope to God that the world will be ready by summer 2021.

16 ( +18 / -2 )

Difficult but wise decision.

5 ( +9 / -4 )

@saulojpn

Absolutely no reason to increase testing. In fact, if I were the government, I would tighten testing criteria up. No need to test. The crisis is over in Japan. It peaked with the Diamond Princess. It's time to get the whole of Japan back to work and school and go get the populace working on preparing for Tokyo 2020 in 2021 since up to 600,000 foreigners are planning to come. The preparation and logistics needed for this is going to require a national effort to make everything perfect.

-28 ( +2 / -30 )

It's a real shame but it had to be done.

The IOC has a way of putting a lot of financial strain on the hosting country. With the virus still lurking around, the financial cost would have hurt Japan if they tried to continue with the games this year.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

Quite right: "With the virus still lurking around, the financial cost would have hurt Japan if they tried to continue with the games this year." I must add the human cost would have been greater if the 2020 Olympics were held. Putting off the Olympics was the right thing to do. Hoping we will all be around to see the virus-free Olympics in 2021.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The Olympics is not life and death....COVID-19 is.

The focus should be to get the country back to normal, so they can safely host the games.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Glad the IOC & JOC were FORCED to do the right thing!!!

Now the re-scheduling is going to be brutally difficult, the costs, claims & picking time frames for the new games..... will it be next spring or will the idiots in charge stick with July-August.....

Expect some serious bumps along the way trying to re-do this!

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Now the olympics have been canceled, it has been reported that Japanese comedian Shimura ken has been very sick with the virus. He is now recovering (happy for him) But he is the first high profile case I have heard of in Japan, maybe I have missed others. But the timing seems strange that they report it only after the Olympics have been postponed. I wonder if over the next week more cases of famous people come to light.

Might just be coincidence too.

As for the Olympics being postponed seems like everyone except the IOC and the Japanese Gov. knew it would happen. What a waste of time and effort, that could (should ) have gone into planning / taking action against the virus.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I just hope to God that the world will be ready by summer 2021.

I just hope they don't reschedule them for July-August. Either a couple of months before or a couple of months after.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

@tora, are you a doctor with inside access to govt data? We need transparency here.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Also in Tokyo we have had the two largest increases in the last two days so it clearly has Ed ‘peaked’ as you wrongly say. Please stick to the facts here

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Now hopefully the hotel will refund my booking or at least change the date...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Japan today can change the Header to: 2021 Tokyo Olympics

3 ( +4 / -1 )

People who think this has peaked were sitting under the sakura and in crowded trains without a mask.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

JT time to change the Tab at the top of page to 2021 Tokyo Olympics.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

The Tokyo Games will still be referred to as the 2020 Olympics.

To believe the virus has already peaked in Japan is foolhardy. And even if it has, it just takes one tourist from Europe to kick it off again.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

They are insisting on still calling it Tokyo 2020 for some reason, guess so they don’t have to change the merchandise. Lol

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Tokyo Olympics in 2021 will be beacon of hope, says IOC

Make it non-profit for the IOC, donate everything to the global fight against coronavirus, and I will agree with them.

As it is, it is the medical community, risking their own health to fight this thing, who are the beacon of hope.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

This is trivial but if you have 2021, it’ll be very special in terms of collectors’ items. This is rare in the history of the Olympics.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I predict the games "Won't" be in 2021 and covid 19 is unfortunately going to explode over the next couple of weeks!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Question, what about Fukushima...…. 3\11...….

Thrown under the bus once again I guess...…. par for the course

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Just call it 2021, we’re all going to want to forget this year as soon as possible, why associate with it?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Now, we will see if they were holding back on testing because of the summer games or not. I expect to see a bump in the reported cases of the virus.

My thinking exactly. It will also be interesting to see if Abe now starts to show some real leadership by enforcing social distancing measures like the other countries that really want to get ahead of the virus. Any other (non)-actions are simply courting disaster.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

runner3 I agree, I wanted to make the same point.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

At last, humans is the matter and only main matter. Good deciosion I.O.C.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Luckily we know the exact date it will stop, that viruses can’t mutate and the world is flat so everyone gets it the same time preventing reinfection.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Luckily we know the exact date it will stop, that viruses can’t mutate and the world is flat so everyone gets it the same time preventing reinfection.

Seems premature to me but everyone was yelling decision decision decision! So what could they do?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Delaying the Games was the right decision. Hosting an event that celebrates human resilience and capability while thousands are sick or dying around the world would have made everyone associated with the event look cruel and selfish. No doubt this will cause a lot of problems in terms of logistics, but even so, human life must come ahead of any global event. All we can do at this stage is hope that the coronavirus situation comes under control much sooner than next year. Fingers crossed.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Here's hoping we are all in a better place next year. Keep listening to the experts, ignore the majority of politicians and quackery.

Absolutely no reason to increase testing. In fact, if I were the government, I would tighten testing criteria up. No need to test. 

Thanks but no thanks.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

It's time to get the whole of Japan back to work and school and go get the populace working on preparing for Tokyo 2020 in 2021

Is this your professional advice?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Kobe White Bar OwnerToday 12:13 pm JST

JT time to change the Tab at the top of page to 2021 Tokyo Olympics.

3( +3 / -0 )

ModeratorToday 12:29 pm JST

The Tokyo Games will still be referred to as the 2020 Olympics.

Thanks Moderator, that makes perfect sense..

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Finally some common sense.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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