As COVID-19 continues to put lives at risk, the Games will be “rescheduled to a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021.”
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact the daily lives of people worldwide, most of the sports calendar had been canceled, with one notable exception—the upcoming 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, set to be held in Tokyo.
That changed on Tuesday, March 24, when the IOC announced in a joint statement with the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee that the 2020 Olympic Games are officially postponed to 2021. The news came one day after veteran IOC member Dick Pound said that the Games will be postponed.
“On the basis of the information the IOC has, postponement has been decided,” Pound told USA TODAY’s Christine Brennan. “The parameters going forward have not been determined, but the Games are not going to start on July 24, that much I know.”
According to the IOC statement released Tuesday, the IOC and the Olympic organising committee decided that hosting the Games in July would pose too much of a health risk in light of the present circumstances. They decided to postpone the Games to a currently undecided date that is no later than summer 2021. The Games will remain in Tokyo.
Additionally, the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Team Trials will be postponed, as well. Trials were scheduled for June 19 to 28 in Eugene, Oregon.
In a letter to the Olympic athletes released on Sunday, IOC president Thomas Bach wrote, “Cancellation of the Olympic Games would destroy the Olympic dream of 11,000 athletes from all 206 National Olympic Committees, from the IOC Refugee Olympic Team, most likely for the Paralympic athletes, and for all the people who are supporting you as coaches, doctors, officials, training partners, friends and family. Cancellation would not solve any problem and would help nobody.”
The Paralympic Games were also officially postponed on Tuesday. They were originally scheduled to run from August 25 through September 6.
“Postponing the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games as a result of the global COVID-19 outbreak is absolutely the right thing to do,” International Paralympic Committee President Andrew Parsons said in a statement. “The health and well-being of human life must always be our number one priority and staging a sport event of any kind during this pandemic is simply not possible. Sport is not the most important thing right now, preserving human life is. It is essential therefore that all steps are taken to try and limit the spread of this disease.”
Many pro athletes have voiced support for delaying the Games by a year. Because of the increasing restrictions on movement in cities around the world to help reduce the spread of the virus, training as usual is impossible for many athletes. Gyms and pools are closed, so at-home strength- and cross-training workouts are the new norm. Pro groups that normally train together are running solo. And in some countries, such as Spain, people aren’t allowed to leave their homes at all.
Over the weekend, USA Track & Field (USATF) requested in a letter to the IOC that the 2020 Olympic Games be postponed, citing concerns about inadequate training circumstances as well as the overall health of athletes.
“Unfortunately, while our world class athletes are willing to push themselves to their athletic limits in pursuit of Olympic success, the likelihood that they will be able to properly train in a safe and adequate environment, and replicate the excellence we have all come to expect, does not appear likely in the midst of this global crisis,” USATF CEO Max Siegel wrote in the letter.
“I was lucky enough to do my marathon training at a time when coronavirus didn’t impact me,” Molly Seidel, who finished second in the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials last month, wrote on Instagram. “The vast majority of Team USA athletes still working to qualify for the games don’t have that luxury. Their preparation would be severely impacted, their competition schedule gutted, and their safety put at risk.”
The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) and Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC) went a step further over the weekend and announced that they will not send Canadian teams to compete in the Tokyo Games if they happen on July 24.
“With COVID-19 and the associated risks, it is not safe for our athletes, and the health and safety of their families and the broader Canadian community for athletes to continue training towards these Games,” the committees told CBC in a statement on Sunday night.
Australia also announced that its athletes will not compete in the 2020 Olympics if they go on as planned this summer. Instead, the Australian team chef de mission for Tokyo 2020 Ian Chesterman advised Australian athletes to start preparing for the 2021 Olympic Games.
According to SB Nation, Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe recently told members of parliament, “If I’m asked whether we can hold the Olympics at this point in time, I would have to say that the world is not in such a condition.”
Additionally, the British Olympic Association chairman Hugh Robertson expressed concern for the welfare of athletes preparing for the Olympics and urged a rapid decision regarding postponement from the IOC.
“Restrictions now in place have removed the ability of athletes to compete on a level playing field and it simply does not seem appropriate to continue on the present course towards the Olympic Games in the current environment,” Robertson told the Times.