Latest: The Olympic and Paralympic Games have been postponed until summer 2021 at the latest due to the coronavirus pandemic.
A joint statement from the International Olympic Committee and the Tokyo 2020 organising committee confirmed the news, following a conference call on Tuesday.
The Games will not now take place in 2020, but will happen no later than the summer of 2021.
“In the present circumstances and based on the information provided by the WHO (World Health Organisation) 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,” the statement read.
“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.
“Therefore, it was agreed that the Olympic flame will stay in Japan. It was also agreed that the Games will keep the name Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.”
The conference call featured Bach, Abe, plus Tokyo 2020 organising committee president Yoshiro Mori, Olympics minister Seiko Hashimoto, the governor of Tokyo Yuriko Koike, the chair of the IOC’s co-ordination commission John Coates, IOC director general Christophe De Kepper and IOC Olympic Games executive director Christophe Dubi.
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 €13billion – will still be utilised if the event does manage to go ahead in 2021.
The Olympic Federation of Ireland welcomed the decision, with CEO Peter Sherrard saying, “This is the right call given the times that we are in.
“Nonetheless we recognize 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.”
Ireland's Chef de Mission Tricia Heberle added,
“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.”
Earlier (12.29pm): The Tokyo Olympics have been postponed until the summer of 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has announced.
Pressure had been mounting on the International Olympic Committee, the local organisers and the Japanese government to confirm a delay, and is was confirmed on Tuesday that Abe had proposed a one-year postponement on a conference call with IOC president Thomas Bach.
A tweet from Abe’s official account read: “After his telephone talks with IOC President Bach, PM Abe spoke to the press and explained that the two have agreed that the Tokyo Olympic Games would not be cancelled, and the games will be held by the summer of 2021.”
After his telephone talks with IOC President Bach, PM Abe spoke to the press and explained that the two have agreed that the Tokyo Olympic Games would not be cancelled, and the games will be held by the summer of 2021. pic.twitter.com/ihe8To2g3R— PM's Office of Japan (@JPN_PMO) March 24, 2020
The IOC’s executive board is now set to formally announce a postponement later on Tuesday.
There have been confirmed cases of the coronavirus in 165 countries with well over 300,000 people diagnosed so far.
Social distancing restrictions imposed by national governments across the globe have had a huge impact on athletes’ ability to prepare and train for the Games, and they had been crying out for the IOC to end the uncertainty and postpone.