Japan and the Olympics movement decided on Tuesday [March 24, 2020] to delay this year’s Tokyo Games as the coronavirus crisis obliterated the world’s last major imminent sporting event.
It was the first time in the Olympics’ 124-year history that they had been postponed, though they were cancelled outright, several times during the two 20th century World Wars.
After a call with International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the event which was to begin on July 24-August 9 2020, would be rescheduled for the summer of 2021 at the latest as proof of victory over the coronavirus.
Athletes were sad but relieved after weeks of worrying and struggling to train, as the world headed into virtual lockdown from the disease that has claimed more than 16,500 lives.
Pressure on the IOC and its powerful president Bach had been accelerating fast in recent days, with Canada and Australia refusing to participate if the Games went ahead in the summer.
Athletes wholeheartedly endorsed the delay, given health risks and disruption to their training as gyms, stadia and swimming pools shut down around the world.
The coronavirus outbreak has raged around the world since early this year, infecting nearly 380,000 people and wrecking sports events from the soccer Euros to Formula One.
Postponement is a massive logistical headache for hosts Japan, which has pumped in more than $12 billion of investment.
But a poll showed about 70% of the Japanese agree with a delay.
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike told reporters the delayed Games would still be branded “Tokyo 2020”.
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