Sun sets on hopes of holding Games this summer, as IOC announces postponement
The International Olympic Committee agreed March 24 at a special board of directors meeting that the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics will be postponed by about one year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Prior to the decision, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held telephone talks with IOC President Thomas Bach and proposed that the Games be delayed. Bach accepted his proposal to hold the event in the summer of 2021 at the latest.
The Tokyo Olympics were originally scheduled to take place from July 24 to Aug. 9 and the Paralympics from Aug. 25 to Sept. 6. It is the first time in the history of the Games that they have been pushed back.
The telephone talks were held at the request of the Japanese government and took place at the prime minister’s official residence for about 45 minutes from 8 p.m. on March 24. The teleconference was also attended by Yoshiro Mori, president of the organizing committee; Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike; Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga; and minister for the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games Seiko Hashimoto, among others.
“We’ve confirmed there is no cancellation,” Abe told reporters after the talks.
“I proposed that we consider options mainly to delay the Games for about a year. This is to allow athletes from across the globe to perform in peak condition and to make the event safe and secure for spectators,” Abe added.
Giving reasons for the oneyear postponement, he said, “Given the current spread of infections, it will be difficult [to contain the virus] by the end of this year.”
Abe said Bach agreed with his suggestion fully.
Regarding a new schedule for the Games, Hashimoto said, “I thought it could be held around summer [next year].”
“It is significant for the athletes that we have a concrete target for the summer of 2021. Tokyo has made numerous preparations. We will keep working with the central government and the organizing committee to prepare for the new goal,” Koike said.
On the matter of the burden of additional expenditures arising from the postponement, Koike said: “A close examination is necessary. I think the amount each of us would shoulder will be discussed with the central government.”
Bach explained at the special IOC board of directors meeting that he had agreed with Abe to push the event back by about a year. The IOC had previously said it would reach a decision within four weeks.
Abe held telephone talks with U.S. President Donald Trump on March 25 about the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.
The two leaders agreed to continue working together to develop drugs and prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, the cause of the postponement. The two leaders confirmed that they would share information on the development of drugs and vaccines.
They also confirmed mutual cooperation over issues related to North Korea, which has recently launched a series of short-range ballistic missiles.
Japan and the United States “confirmed close cooperation in order to hold the Tokyo Games in perfect condition as a symbol of overcoming the coronavirus infectious disease,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters on March 25.
A man walks in front of a sign displaying the date the Olympics were scheduled to start, in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district on March 25. Below: People walk past an Olympic countdown display in front of Tokyo Station on March 24.