The Tokyo Olympic Games scheduled for July 2020 will be postponed until 2021, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters Tuesday, March 24, after a conference call between him and the International Olympic Committee /IOC/ president, Thomas Bach. The games would be held in the summer of 2021 but would retain the name “Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020”.
Tokyo 2020 Was Expected To Run As Scheduled
Not until recently, both the IOC and Japanese government insisted there were no plans for the postponement of the event, though the Minister for the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, Seiko Hashimoto, had suggested that they were seriously considering that option.
“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.”Joint Statement, IOC and the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee
Growing Pressure From Participant States
The latest turn of events was forced after the decisions from Canada and Australia to pull out from the Olympics due to health concerns from the ongoing global spread of the virus. Britain and France additionally put pressure on the Olympics governing body, the IOC, to make a quick decision. New Zealand even threatened to boycott the games if they open as scheduled.
The growing chorus for postponement was later joined by the US Olympic and Paralympic committee, pointing out the disruption to training and the qualification process the spreading pandemic had already caused. World Athletics and the Olympic committees of Brazil, Slovenia and Germany, as well as the USA Swimming and USA Track and Field had all raised concerns, asking for the event to be rescheduled.
The Virus Outbreak Reminiscent Of World War II
The announced postponement of Tokyo 2020, the Olympics that were expected to take place from July 24 to August 9, and the Paraolympics from August 25 to September 6, is the first major disruption of the event since World War II, when in 1944 Summer Olympics were cancelled. Four years before that, the 1940 Summer Olympics that were scheduled to take place in Tokyo were also cancelled.
The IOC had a history of dealing with health threats to the Olympics dating back to 2010, when swine flu was raising concerns ahead of the Vancouver games, and then in 2016 and 2018, the zika virus and bird flu, were causing troubles ahead of the Rio and PyeongChang Olympics, respectively, but none so serious to force a postponement.