2020 Tokyo Olympics officially delayed due to coronavirus outbreak
For thousands of athletes around the world, it would have once been considered a nightmare scenario.
And on Tuesday, it finally became official.
In an unprecedented and unavoidable move, the International Olympic Committee and Japanese government agreed to postpone the 2020 Summer Olympics “to a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021” due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
It is the first time in modern Olympic history that a global health issue has disrupted the Games.
“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 and Tokyo 2020 organizing committee said in a joint statement.
According to the statement, the Olympic flame will stay in Japan during the delay. The Games will also continue to officially be called “Tokyo 2020,” even as they move to 2021.
The announcement followed telephone conversations between Abe, Bach and their respective teams Tuesday. It comes less than 24 hours after long-standing IOC member Dick Pound first told USA TODAY Sports that the Games would not begin as scheduled on July 24.
While the Olympic Games have previously been canceled during periods of war, and complicated by boycotts, this is the first time they have ever been suspended.
The decision to move the multi-billion dollar event will have widespread political, legal, logistical and financial ramifications, both locally in Japan and around the world. It also figures to cause headaches and heartaches across the international sports community — for federations and leagues that must now adapt their schedules, and for the 11,000 athletes who had spent years training to compete this summer.