The 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan have been officially postponed to “no later than summer 2021,” according to a statement from the organizers.
The International Olympic Committee and Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee issued the announcement Tuesday morning after facing growing pressure to postpone or cancel the world’s premier athletic event.
Committee leaders, coaches and athletes from around the world had already begun criticizing the committee for its apparent refusal to act amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“[T]he IOC president and the Prime Minister of Japan have concluded that the Games … 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,” said a joint statement by the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee and the IOC.
The statement comes less than 48 hours after the IOC had said it would wait four weeks to decide. It also comes merely five days after officials in Athens completed the symbolic torch exchange with Tokyo organizers at an almost empty Panathenaic Olympic Stadium.
What happens next?
Despite the postponement, the Games will still be referred to as the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020. And the Olympic flame will remain stored and displayed in the northern Japanese city of Fukushima.
The IOC and Tokyo organizers said they hope the postponement will help the world heal from the pandemic.
“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 statement said.
Before the coronavirus, war had been the only reason for rescheduling the Olympic Games. The Games were cancelled in 1916, 1940 and 1944 because of World War I and World War II.
As of today, the World Health Organization has confirmed more than 370,000 cases and 16,000 deaths across 195 countries.
Various countries have implemented national lockdowns to prevent the spread of the virus, including Italy, France, Spain and Greece.
Featured image: Kazuhiro Nogi / Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)
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