As sports and athletics organizations around the world cancel competitions and events in light of COVID-19, officials with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Tokyo 2020 Games had resisted calls to delay this summer’s opening ceremony. However, the decision has finally been made to postpone.
On Monday, one IOC member stated in an interview that he did not think the Games would go ahead as planned. “On the basis of the information the IOC has, postponement has been decided,” Canadian IOC member Dick Pound told USA Today in an interview. “The parameters going forward have not been determined, but the Games are not going to start on July 24, that much I know.”
Pound’s statements came one day after the IOC announced that a decision would be made regarding the fate of the Olympics within the next four weeks, and just hours after Canada and Australia announced that they wouldn’t be sending athletes to compete if the Games went ahead as planned. However, on Tuesday, the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, and the IOC agreed to a one-year postponement of the Games.
The prime minister’s office then tweeted that the decision to postpone had been agreed upon with IOC President Thomas Bach. The IOC said in a statement: “In the present circumstances and based on the information provided by the WHO today, the IOC President and the Prime Minister of Japan have concluded that the Games of the XXXII Olympiad in Tokyo must be rescheduled to a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021, to safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games and the international community”.
As Lonely Planet reported earlier this month, the decision to cancel or postpone would be a costly one for Japan – the country has already spent an estimated $26bn in the ramp-up to the Games. But it wouldn’t be an unprecedented move. The Summer Games were called off in 1916, during World War I, and during World War II, both the Summer and Winter games were called off in 1940 and 1944, respectively.
In lieu of total cancellation or postponement, the idea of proceeding behind closed doors had also been bandied about, but the loss of revenue from ticket sales and the atmosphere thousands of cheering fans provide, would be sorely missed – not to mention the health risks involved, and the fact that athletes are struggling to properly prepare for the competition, given the current directive in many places to practice social distancing.
This article was first published on www.lonelyplanet.com.