The Tokyo Olympics have been postponed until 2021

Olympic Federation of Ireland says postponement is ‘the right call given the times that we are in’.

Olympics: Tokyo 2020 postponed until summer 2021 at latest.
Olympics: Tokyo 2020 postponed until summer 2021 at latest.

Updated Mar 24th 2020, 2:20 PM

THE TOKYO 2020 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games have been postponed until 2021 due to the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.

In a joint statement, the International Olympic Committee and the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee said 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”.

The announcement followed a phone call earlier on Tuesday between Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe and IOC President Thomas Bach.

“I proposed to postpone for about a year and President Bach responded with 100% agreement,” Abe told reporters.

The Tokyo Games will then be held “in a complete form as a testament to mankind’s defeat of the new virus”, he said.

The Olympic flame will stay in Japan until the rescheduled opening ceremony, organisers confirmed, and the Games will keep the name of 2020 Olympics and Paralympics.

“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 joint statement said.

The decision to postpone was welcomed by both the Olympic Federation of Ireland and the Paralympic Federation of Ireland.

 “This is the right call given the times that we are in,” OFI chief executive Peter Sherrard said.

Nonetheless we recognise it was a difficult call for Japan to make, and we are looking forward to working with the IOC and countries all over the world to make Tokyo 2021 a poignant moment for the whole world once these difficult times are over.

Tricia Heberle, Ireland’s Olympic chef de mission said that the decision was “totally appropriate” but acknowledged that there will be “mixed emotions” among Ireland’s athletes.

“Our focus is to continue to engage with and support our sports as we gather as much information to determine how this will impact on both athletes who have already qualified and those who are on the path to qualification,” Heberle said.

Paralympics Ireland CEO Miriam Malone said that the decision to postpone the Games was “the only safe option.”

“Our guiding principle has always been the protection of our Irish athletes, their health and their safety and I believe that this decision safeguards our athletes in line with this principle.

We are already rolling out our contingency plans for athletes and we will do everything in our power to ensure that our Irish athletes will be able to adapt as seamlessly as possible to the new arrangements when they are confirmed.

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The Canadian Olympic and Paralympic committees had already announced they would not compete in Tokyo this summer, while the Australians had told their athletes to prepare for a postponement to the summer of 2021.

Team USA said it had surveyed its athletes with nearly 93 per cent of the 1,780 respondents preferring to see the Games postponed rather than outright cancelled, while 68 per cent said the event could not be fairly competed if
continued as scheduled.

The Germany Olympic Committee said a postponement decision was “long overdue”.

Its statement, released prior to the official announcement, read: “The examination of the relocation is a correct step of the IOC, which is long overdue in view of the current global health situation, because this now clearly signals internally and externally that the implementation of the Games is clearly subordinate to world health.”

Moving the Games will carry some cost, but it is not anticipated there will be a major clamour from sponsorship and broadcast partners.

Games venues – already built at an estimated cost of over €13 billion – will still be utilised if the event does manage to go ahead in 2021.

– Additional reporting from Press Association and AFP

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Niall Kelly

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