Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe revealed on Tuesday that the Tokyo 2020 Olympics had been delayed.
Abe said Japan and the International Olympic Committee struck a deal with IOC chief Thomas Bach during a phone call, following mounting calls to delay or cancel the games due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.
The Japanese leader told reporters after the call that they agreed that the games would not be canceled and would be held until the summer of 2021, at the very latest.
According to Abe “Considering the current situation, in regards to the Tokyo Games, as the host nation, to ensure that athletes from all over the world are able to compete in their best condition, and also in order to ensure the utmost safety for the spectators, I have asked him to consider postponing the games by about a year”.
The Prime Minister said that Japan would fulfill its duty as a host nation “to prove that humanity has defeated the novel Coronavirus.” The virus has driven millions of people worldwide into lockdown to help prevent its spread and claimed the lives of more than 17,000 people.
The Olympics are the most significant event yet to be affected by the growing global pandemic. The game was expected to run from 24 July to 9 August and the Paralympics from 25 August to 6 September.
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 IOC said in a joint statement with the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee.
This was the first significant disruption to the Olympics since World War II when they canceled the Summer Olympics in 1944. The 1940 Summer Olympics were also canceled, which were to be held in Tokyo.
The IOC has dealt with potential health hazards in recent times, but none are so severe that they have affected the deadline.
There were concerns about bird flu before the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, Zika during the 2016 Rio Olympics, and swine flu before the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
Amid growing apprehensions about an outbreak of coronavirus in recent weeks, Japanese authorities have ensured that the games will continue as planned. For the first time on Monday, Abe admitted that the Olympics could be postponed due to coronavirus, as countries began threatening to keep their athletes at home.
The flames of the Olympics reached Japan on 20 March for a journey that led to the opening ceremony.
But after Abe’s announcement, the torch relay, which was to begin on Thursday, was canceled, said Yoshiro Mori, chairman of the organizing committee. However, the Olympic flame will remain in Japan, the IOC has confirmed.
Note: The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games have been delayed for the first time in their history due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games will now take place on July 23, 2021.