International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held a conference call this morning in which they announced the postponement of this summer’s Olympic Games, which were set to begin in Tokyo on July 24.
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 IOC said in a statement.
The decision to hold the Games in the summer of 2021 will cause more upheaval to an already chaotic sports calendar but may create more stability for athletes and federations who said the coronavirus pandemic was ruining training schedules and creating unsafe conditions.
Postponement began to seem inevitable after the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee released a statement Monday night urging the IOC to postpone after Canada, Australia and Norway announced that they wouldn’t send teams to the Games.
The USOPC said that in a poll of 1,780 Team USA athletes, 68% didn’t think the Games would be fairly contested if held as planned due to the challenges around training, qualifying, and other issues.
“Our most important conclusion from this broad athlete response is that even if the current significant health concerns could be alleviated by late summer, the enormous disruptions to the training environment, doping controls, and qualification process can’t be overcome in a satisfactory manner. To that end, it’s more clear than ever that the path toward postponement is the most promising, and we encourage the IOC to take all needed steps to ensure the Games can be conducted under safe and fair conditions for all competitors,” the statement read.
IOC leaders said a delay was the only way to ensure athlete safety and that the more than $10 billion that Japan has spent to prepare for the Olympics will not go to waste.