TOKYO – The difficult call to postpone the Tokyo Olympics to 2021 was announced after talks between Japan’s prime minister Abe Shinzo and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach.
According to Abe, it was established that cancelling the Games out of the question and moving the games to the summer of 2021 was the most appropriate response to the global disruption.
The decision to postpone was “the best way to ensure that the athletes are in peak condition when they compete and to guarantee the safety of the spectators” Abe told reporters after his conference call with Bach.
The games will continue as the “Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020” even when they are held next year, and the Olympic flame will remain in Japan “as a beacon of hope to the world during these troubled times”.
While some IOC members have talked about the chance of a “cherry blossom” Games next April, it is more likely it will be held in July, where fewer sporting events are due to take place.
Organisers of major sporting events in 2021 have indicated the possibility of shifting to accommodate the Olympic Games in July. Organisers of the World Athletics championships said it will be happy to shift its 2021 event to 2022, and swimming world Championships, Fina, likely to follow suit.
The postponement deals a significant blow to Japan, which has shelled out more than US$12 billion on the event, with large sums at stake for sponsors and broadcasters.
Goldman Sachs projected this month that Japan would lose US$4.5bn (550bn yen) in inbound and domestic consumption this year should the Olympics not take place.
The decision to postpone has been met with a mixture of disappointment and resignation by the host nation, according to opinion polls conducted before the annoucement.
A Kyodo news poll last week showed that nearly 70% of respondents said they did not foresee the Games going ahead this summer.
The Olympic Games have never been postponed in this way, with exceptions such as the cancellation of the Games in 1916, 1940 – then also a planned Tokyo Games – and 1944, during the first and second world wars.