After much deliberation, the International Olympics Committee (IOC) has decided to postpone the 2020 Tokyo Games — due to run from July 24 to August 9 —because of the coronavirus pandemic. Veteran IOC member Dick Pound told the press that the future of the Games will be decided soon.
“It will come in stages,” he said.
“On the basis of the information the IOC has, postponement has been decided. The parameters going forward have not been determined, but the Games are not going to start on July 24, that much I know.”
The announcement came right after major sporting nations Australia and Canada withdrew their participations on Monday. The Canadian Olympic and Paralympic committee also “urgently called”on the IOC, the International Paralympic Committee and the World Health Organisation to postpone the Games for a year.
While this would be the first time that the Olympics have been postponed, the Games had been cancelled before this. Due to the World War I in 1916, the Games were not held in Berlin. It was also cancelled due to World War II in 1940 and 1944. Major Cold War boycotts also disrupted the Moscow and Los Angeles Games in 1980 and 1984 respectively.
While many were adamant about postponing the Games, strong advocates of the sporting event in Japan felt that it should go on despite the Covid-19 outbreak. Japan’s Olympic Minister Seiko Hashimoto even said that the Games will “absolutely not” be cancelled or delayed.
Moreover, finding a new date could be complicated as the summer 2021 calendar is already crowded, while 2022 will see the soccer World Cup and the Beijing Winter Olympics.
The novel coronavirus, which has claimed 16,618 lives at the time of writing, has sparked a groundswell of concern among athletes as gyms, stadiums, swimming pools and training centres close around the world.
The decision to postpone the games would have a wide-ranging effect, impacting 11,000 Olympic and 4,400 Paralympic athletes, staff members, sponsorships, and thousands of fans that planned on attending. Private economists estimated that the overall domestic financial loss could reach 600 billion yen to 700 billion yen (RM24 bil to RM28 bil), should the Games be delayed.
The Japanese authorities have no choice but to bow to the inevitable.
“We may have no option but to consider postponing,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was hoping for a boom in tourism and consumer spending, told parliament.
Stay tuned for more updates.