Tokyo Olympics Postponed Over Coronavirus Pandemic

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Toronto/Tokyo- In a joint state­ment, the pair said that based on current World Health Organization information, the Tokyo 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 leaders agreed that the Olympic Games in Tokyo could stand as a beacon of hope to the world during these trou­bled times and that the Olympic flame could become the light at the end of the tunnel in which the world finds itself at present.

“Therefore, it was agreed that the Olympic flame will stay in Japan. It was also agreed that the Games will keep the name Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020,” the statement concluded.

The decision will be a devastating blow for the city of Tokyo, which had won widespread praise for its organisa­tion, with venues finished well ahead of time and tickets massively oversub­scribed.

The Olympics, which has experi­enced boycotts, terrorist attacks and protests, but has been held every four years since 1948, would be the highest-profile event affected by the virus that has killed thousands and closed sports competitions worldwide.

The IOC has come under increasing pressure in recent days to postpone the Games, scheduled to start on July 24, with 1.7 billion people across the plan­et in lockdown to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.

Training has become impossible for many athletes and exposes them to the risk of contracting or spreading the dis­ease. Competitions and qualifiers have been scrapped, while international travel is severely limited.

On Sunday, the IOC had initially given itself a deadline of four weeks to come up with a proposal to postpone the Games, a Herculean task that touches on every aspect of Tokyo 2020 planning from venues to security to ticketing.

But after Canada and Australia with­drew their teams and the powerful US Olympic Committee and World Athlet­ics also joined the chorus calling for a postponement, the writing was on the wall.

Tokyo was spending some $12.6 bil­lion to host the Games, according to its latest budget, and experts believe a postponement could cost it some $6 bil­lion in the short-term before recouping it when they eventually go ahead.

It will also be a bitter blow to spon­sors and major broadcasters who rely on the four-yearly extravaganza for critical advertising revenue.

It is not the first time Tokyo has seen unscheduled changes to the Games — it was due to be the first Asian country to host the Olympics in 1940 before pulling out due to international pressure over its war with China.

Passers-by at Beijing’s Olympic Park wear protective face masks as the coro­navirus pandemic causes problems around the world

But Tokyo 2020 organisers had point­ed to the unparalleled complexity — not to mention cost — of shifting the Games. It is not even clear venues will be avail­able and tens of thousands of hotel rooms will need to be cancelled and re­booked.

“It is mind-bogglingly complex to make a sudden change after seven years of preparation for the biggest sporting event in the world,” Michael Payne, the IOC’s former head of marketing, told AFP.

But Tokyo 2020 organisers had pointed to the unparalleled complexity — not to mention cost — of shifting the Games. It is not even clear venues will be available and tens of thousands of hotel rooms will need to be cancelled and rebooked.

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