TOKYO – The International Olympic Committee and the Japanese government agreed on Monday to delay the 2020 Tokyo Olympics for one year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters that IOC President Thomas Bach had agreed to his proposal of a postponement in a telephone conversation, the first deferment in the 124-year history of the competition.
Abe told the press: “Japan, as host country, under the current circumstances, has proposed that (the IOC) study whether it can be postponed for about a year so that athletes can have the best conditions.”
He added that Bach had agreed to his proposal “100 per cent.”
“So we have reached an agreement to hold the Olympics in Tokyo no later than the summer of 2021,” he continued.
Seiko Hashimoto, Japan’s minister for the Olympics and Paralympics, said: “We want to make sure that the Olympics will be a victory against the coronavirus.”
The Tokyo organising committee and the Japanese government had insisted that the Games would go ahead as planned, despite growing calls for the competition to be adjourned because of the Covid-19 outbreak.
Various sports federations and national Olympic committees have called for a postponement in recent days, saying the outbreak has made it impossible for athletes to carry out proper preparation and training.
The United States and Canada had both said they would not send athletes to the competition this year.
Earlier on Monday the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) urged the IOC to postpone the Games.
USOPC chairwoman and CEO Susanne Lyons said the pandemic had caused “enormous disruptions to the training environment, doping controls and qualification process can’t be overcome in a satisfactory manner.”
Canada and Australia also announced they would not be sending any athletes to Tokyo this year.
The Australian Olympic Committee said it needed to prioritise the health of athletes and of those around them.
Canada’s Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee had “urgently” demanded the IOC postpone the event by a year.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said: “I know this heartbreaking for so many people – athletes, coaches, staff and fans.
“But this was absolutely the right call and everyone should follow their lead.”
A number of other international leaders, including Ecuador and Austria, had spoken out in favour of delaying the competition.
The Olympic Games were scheduled to be held in Japan between July 24 and August 9, followed by the Paralympics two weeks later, between August 25 and September 9.