Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach agreed March 24 to postpone the Tokyo Olympics for about a year, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
This is the first time the modern Olympics have been postponed, although war led to the cancellation of the Summer Games in 1916, and of the Summer and Winter Games in both 1940 and 1944.
“I confirmed with President Bach that there will be no cancellation,” Abe told reporters after speaking with Bach on the phone. “We agreed to hold the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics in the summer of 2021 at the latest.”
Abe said Bach agreed with him “100%” when he proposed “a postponement of about one year” and the decision was made to make sure athletes can compete in their best condition and spectators can enjoy the games safely.
Following the teleconference, the IOC’s board officially approved the postponement of the Olympics, which was initially due to begin July 24 and to be followed by the Paralympics on Aug. 25.
Japan had been under mounting pressure from athletes and sports organizations to reschedule the Olympics amid the rapid spread of the coronavirus around the world.
Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, who was also with Abe during the teleconference, said the postponement gives the world a “clear goal” to attain by the summer of 2021 as the battle against the new coronavirus must be won by then.
Nonetheless, the unprecedented delay poses considerable logistical challenges to Olympic organizers. (Kyodo)