The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games are to be postponed by a year following a telephone call between Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach.
The unprecedented move means the Olympic and Paralympic Games will be postponed for the first time in its 124-year history.
It has previously been cancelled due to World War I and II, but now faces its first disruption in peacetime as the globe battles the coronavirus pandemic.
The decision comes after mounting pressure was placed on organisers over the past few days to make a decision on the fate of the event.
Both the IOC and Tokyo 2020’s organising committee had released statements saying they would make a decision over the next four weeks, to the frustration of athletes who were struggling to continue training regimes in the current climate of self-isolation.
The subsequent calls from Olympic Committees around the world for postponement added pressure on organisers to come to a decision quickly.
Great Britain, United States, Germany, Australia, Brazil and Norway all publicly called for the Games to be suspended.
Japan’s Prime Minister Abe held an emergency phone call with the IOC president this morning and recommended the Olympics postponement until 2021.
“I proposed to postpone for about a year and president Thomas Bach responded with 100% agreement,” Abe told reporters.
The decision will inevitably pose financial and logistical problems.
Tokyo 2020 organisers had put the cost of staging the Olympics at just under £11bn.
No precise dates for the rearranged Games have been decided but it is likely to be a similar time next summer, although the availability of venues and accommodation will play a role.
It will also mean the 2021 World Athletic Championships will need rescheduling.
Organisers had been reluctant to make such a decision and as recently as yesterday said the planned start date of 24 July was still a serious option.
But the pressure from individual committees as well as pressure group Global Athlete have availed.
Former British Olympic Champion Callum Skinner is a leading voice for Global Athlete and told City A.M. earlier this week that the IOC were being stubborn and should postpone the Games.
“There’s been a degree of arrogance and stubbornness,” Skinner said of the IOC. “To go to the stubbornness, I think they don’t seem to realise how out of step their current messaging and tone is compared to what athletes are seeing from leaders on the TV, or on the news in general.”
Speculation then intensified when IOC member Dick Pound claimed the body had decided on a year’s postponement, but did not want to rush an announcement in order to present organisers and sponsors with a clear 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,” he had said.