The Olympics are set to be moved back a year to the northern hemisphere summer of 2021. (Reuters: Issei Kato)
The International Olympic Committee has decided to postpone the Tokyo 2020 Olympics because of the coronavirus pandemic, IOC member Dick Pound has said.
- Dick Pound said the IOC was looking to postpone the Games until 2021
- Japanese PM Shinzo Abe said the coronavirus pandemic meant the Games could not be held now
- Australia and Canada both said they would not send athletes to the Games this year
Australia and Canada both effectively withdrew from the 2020 Games on Monday as organisers came under global pressure to postpone the event for the first time in its 124-year modern history.
Mr Pound told Reuters a one-year postponement now looked like the best solution.
That would see the Games, currently scheduled for July 24 to August 9, shifted to the northern summer of 2021.
“That’s my conclusion [there will be a postponement],” Mr Pound said in a telephone interview.
“From reading IOC-speak in the communique, if you are going to cancel you simply cancel because there are no future plans.
“But if you are going to carry on with the original objective [to stage the Games] there is no reason to issue a statement because you have already done that over the past several weeks.”
Japan and the IOC have said calling off the Games entirely is not an option, with the IOC saying a decision on the Games will come in the next four weeks.
Dick Pound believes the tide is turning, with the IOC coming round to the idea of postponing the Games (REUTERS: Christinne Muschi)
Pound said a large number of stakeholders, including the organising committee, athletes, broadcasters and sporting federations, would all need to be consulted before a plan could be finalised.
But he said there were early signs of a willingness to accommodate a 2021 Summer Games.
World Athletics said on Monday they would be willing to move their 2021 world championships, scheduled for August 6-15 in Eugene, Oregon, to clear a path for a 2021 Olympics.
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Only world wars have stopped the modern Games before
A postponement would be a blow for host country Japan, which has spent more than $20 billion on the Games so far. Huge sums are also at stake for sponsors and broadcasters.
But a groundswell of concern from athletes — already struggling to train as gyms, stadiums and swimming pools close around the world — appears to be tipping the balance, along with the cancellation of other major sports events.
The IOC and the Japanese Government have both edged back from weeks of insistence that the Games will go ahead as scheduled.
The modern Olympics have never been delayed, though they were cancelled altogether in 1916, 1940 and 1944 during the two world wars. Major Cold War boycotts disrupted the Moscow and Los Angeles Games in 1980 and 1984 respectively.
“The moment the IOC indicates that it is thinking about other solutions, it has already decided to delay the Games,” said French Olympic Committee president Denis Masseglia.
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Yesterday Australia and Canada both said they would not participate if the Games were not put back to 2021.
The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) told athletes to prepare for the Olympics to be held in 2021, saying an Australian team “could not be assembled in the changing circumstances at home and abroad”.
AOC chief executive Matt Carroll says Australia cannot assemble its Olympic team this year. (AAP: Dean Lewins)
“With travel and other restrictions, this becomes an untenable situation,” AOC boss Matt Carroll said.
Olympic gold medallist Jared Tallent told the ABC it was a relief athletes finally had some certainty.
“It was getting to the stage where a lot of athletes were struggling to find places to train, and worrying about if they should be going to training with all the government advice that had been going around,” the 2012 50-kilometre race walk champion said.
“It’s good that this announcement has happened. It will reduce a lot of anxiety and stress that athletes had been feeling over the last couple of weeks.”
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Abe concedes Japan has to ‘consider postponing’
Shinzo Abe has cast fresh doubt over the chances of holding the Games this year. (AP: Eugene Hoshiko)
Japanese authorities seem to be bowing to the inevitable, despite the losses and logistics headaches.
“We may have no option but to consider postponing,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was hoping for a boom in tourism and consumer spending, told parliament.
“Currently, can we hold the Olympics? The world is not in such a place right now.”
The organising committee is already scaling back the torch relay to avoid crowds, national broadcaster NHK said.
Tokyo stocks sensitive to the success of the Olympics surged on Monday, after sharp falls in prior weeks, thanks to expectations of a delay rather than a cancellation.
Pound told Reuters the IOC had tried to hold fire in order to be able to present the hosts, sports federations and sponsors with a clear alternative plan.
“Probably what turned the tide in the last couple of days is the curve on the COVID-19 virus. It is getting very, very steep now and this is clearly not something that is going to be under control by June or July — and probably not by the end of the year.”