The IOC has finally decided to postpone the 2020 Olympic games, bowing under the increasing pressure of competing countries struggling with the coronavirus, or COVID-19, pandemic, and the ITF fully supports the decision.
Whilst this is a bitter disappointment for all those who have been preparing and training hard, we all understand that the protection of human life, health and safety, comes first. David Haggerty, ITF President
The postponed games will still operate under the name of ‘Tokyo 2020’ despite the date change, although dates are yet to be announced.
ITF President David Haggerty, said: “The global health situation continues to evolve at an extraordinary pace and we are faced with an unprecedented situation that calls for responsible leadership and making informed decisions.
“Whilst this is a bitter disappointment for all those who have been preparing and training hard, we all understand that the protection of human life, health and safety, comes first.
“The ITF supports this decision and will continue to collaborate fully with the IOC and the IPC going forward to 2021.
“We look forward to seeing all athletes, volunteers and fans when it is safe for us to meet and participate at our best at the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.”
The decision followed talks between the Japanese President, Shinzo Abe, and IOC President Thomas Bach in which Japan officially asked Olympic organisers to move the Games back one year, and the IOC’s Executive Board is set to approve the decision.
In a joint statement, the IOC and the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee said: “In a very friendly and constructive meeting, the two leaders praised the work of the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee and noted the great progress being made in Japan to fight against COVID-19.
“The unprecedented and unpredictable spread of the outbreak has seen the situation in the rest of the world deteriorating. Yesterday, the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said that the COVID-19 pandemic is ‘accelerating’.
“There are more than 375,000 cases now recorded worldwide and in nearly every country, and their number is growing by the hour.
“In the present circumstances and based on the information provided by the WHO today, the IOC President and the Prime Minister of Japan have concluded that the Games of the XXXII Olympiad in Tokyo 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 IOC previously had said it would give itself a four-week deadline in order to decide on postponement, and IOC member Dick Pound said the organisation would determine its next steps after taking the decision.
“On the basis of the information the IOC has, postponement has been decided,” Pound said.
“The parameters going forward have not been determined, but the Games are not going to start on 24 July, that much I know. It will come in stages.
“We will postpone this and begin to deal with all the ramifications of moving this, which are immense.”
The IOC had been under mounting pressure to postpone the Games, with National Olympic Committees and athletes all calling for the games to take place next year instead.
World Athletics President Sebastian Coe had written to Thomas Bach to urge a postponement, while World Athletics itself said it would stand ready to assist the IOC with an alternative date.
Meanwhile, Hugh Robertson, Chairman, BOA, said before the official postponement announcement that he had expected that Britain’s Team GB would follow Canada and Australia in withdrawing from any Games scheduled in the summer of 2020.
The two other Commonwealth countries had already declared they would not be sending athletes to Tokyo in July before the IOC made its announcement.
“If the virus continues as predicted by the government, I don’t think there is any way we can send a team,” Robertson said.
“First, I don’t see any way that the athletes and Team GB could be ready by then.
“Elite training facilities are, perfectly understandably and quite correctly, closed around the country, so there is no way they could undertake the preparation they need to get ready for a Games.
“Secondly, there is the appropriateness of holding an Olympic Games at a time like this.
“We are actually in a process where we are talking to all our sports. We will complete that over the next couple of days.”
In Tokyo, crowds still came to see the Olympic flame, queuing to get a glimpse and witness a ceremony despite the decision.
Japan Olympic Committee (JOC) President Yasuhiro Yamashita said the decision had come earlier than he thought it would, but he was determined the host nation’s athletes would be ready to compete in 2021.
“Now that the decisions have been made, let’s take this positively, reset our mindset,” he told a news conference.
“With fresh mind, not giving up, I want to go through this challenge heading into next year.”
The Olympic flame will now remain in Japan until next year.
Japanese government officials said Prime Minster Shinzo Abe had phoned US President Donald Trump to explain the postponement as they sought to further cushion the economy from the twin blows of the coronavirus and the delayed Games.
Tuesday’s decision came 122 days before the planned opening ceremony at Japan’s newly built National Stadium, which was to usher in the 16-day event featuring 11,000 athletes from 206 nations and territories.
The countdown clock in front of Tokyo Station, which had been displaying the number of days until the Games, halted and reverted to Wednesday’s date and time.
This is the first time since the Second World War that an Olympic event will not be held in its quadrennial cycle.
A rescheduled date for the Games has not yet been announced.