The 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo will be postponed due to the global coronavirus crisis, a veteran member of the International Olympic Committee announced Monday.
International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound said Monday that the games were likely to be pushed to 2021, according to USA Today.
“On the basis of the information the IOC has, postponement has been decided,” Pound said, according to USA Today. “The parameters going forward have not been determined, but the Games are not going to start on July 24, that much I know.”
Pound, one of the most influential members of the IOC for decades, offered the first real confirmation that the governing body would delay the games as a growing number of athletes and organizations around the world called for postponing the competition until the pandemic subsides.
“It will come in stages,” he told USA Today. “We will postpone this and begin to deal with all the ramifications of moving this, which are immense.”
Facing broad pressure from governments, sponsors, broadcasters, and sports federations, the International Olympic Committee on Sunday said it would wait as many as four weeks to work out the logistics and make a final decision.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, speaking at a parliamentary session, said a postponement of the Tokyo Olympics would be necessary if the games cannot be held in a complete way because of the pandemic, AP reported.
Just a day earlier, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach sent a letter to athletes explaining the committee’s decision to delay a suspension for four weeks.
“I know that this unprecedented situation leaves many of your questions open,” he wrote. “I also know that this rational approach may not be in line with the emotions many of you have to go through.”
Where things stand
Britain was expected to announce Monday that it will not be sending its athletes to the games, according to a report by BBC Sports.
The CEO of the U.S. Olympic team had not made a public call to delay the games despite pressure to do so from USA Track and Field and USA Swimming, which has urged a 12-month delay.
“My role is not to make demands of those making decisions, but to bring forward solutions,” Sarah Hirshland, the CEO of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, told AP on Sunday.
Over the weekend, the USOPC surveyed about 4,000 Olympic hopefuls, asking them about training conditions and the medical conditions in the places they live, along with their thoughts about when the Olympics should take place, AP reports.
Other world athletic organizations have been more direct about wanting the games postponed.
Global Athlete, a worldwide group that represents Olympic athletes, urged the IOC to postpone the games in a Sunday news release.
“It’s bizarre the IOC hasn’t shown any real leadership,” said Caradh O'Donovan, a Global Athlete founder from Ireland, according to AP. “They’re acting as though it’s business as usual and it just seems very strange.”
Two weeks ago, Japan's Olympic minister Seiko Hashimoto dismissed President Donald Trump’s suggestion to postpone the Tokyo Olympics for a year.
“The IOC and the organizing committee are not considering cancellation or a postponement — absolutely not at all,” Seiko Hashimoto said.
But since then, the contagious virus has spread even more and thousands more have become infected and died.
Seb Coe, the leader of World Athletics, joined the call for a postponement of the games Sunday, according to AP.
“Nobody wants to see the Olympic Games postponed but ... we cannot hold the event at all costs, certainly not at the cost of athlete safety,” Coe said.
Elsewhere, the Australian Olympic Committee has told its athletes to prepare for an Olympics in 2021.
The Canadian Olympic Committee has said it won’t send athletes to the Tokyo Games unless they’re postponed for a year, according to AP.
National Olympic committees in Brazil and Slovenia had also called for postponement until 2021, AP reports.
And the Norwegian Olympic Committee sent a letter to IOC President Thomas Bach on Friday, urging that the games be delayed until the outbreak “is under firm control.”
On Monday Russia announced its support for the International Olympic Committee’s approach of delaying a decision to postpone the games.
The Olympics are scheduled July 24 to Aug. 9.
Cancelling or postponing the world’s biggest sporting event stands to be an economical and logistical nightmare, considering the number of refunds and cancellations that would be created as a result.
The games have been canceled only three other times in its history, because of World War I (1916) and World War II (1940 and 1944), according to AP.
— Information provided by The Associated Press was used to supplement this report.