This summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo have been postponed until next year following a conference call earlier today (Tuesday) between International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The IOC confirmed the postponement in a statement released this afternoon. It was decided that the Olympic and Paralympic Games must be rescheduled to a date “beyond 2020” but not later than the summer of 2021. The Games will still be called Tokyo 2020.

Bach and Abe were joined on their conference call by Tokyo 2020 organising committee president Yoshiro Mori, Olympic Minister Seiko Hashimoto, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, IOC Coordination Commission chair John Coates, IOC director general Christophe De Kepper and IOC Olympic Games executive director Christophe Dubi.

The IOC announced on Sunday that it would consider postponing the Games and it had planned on discussing the matter with the relevant parties over the next four weeks.

However, with various international federations having pushed for a postponement and the national Olympic committees of Canada and Australia among those that said they would not be sending athletes to a Games this summer, an early decision has been made to push the event back to 2021.

In a joint statement, the IOC and the Tokyo 2020 organising committee said: “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 Organisation (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.”

Earlier this month, the Tokyo 2020 organising committee announced that all new permanent venues for the Games had been completed. The Tokyo Aquatics Centre was the final permanent venue to be completed on schedule at the end of February.

A total of 43 venues – eight new permanent venues, 25 existing facilities and 10 temporary venues – had been set to be used at Tokyo 2020. The Olympics had been due to run from July 24 to August 9 before the Paralympics followed from August 25 to September 6.

The postponement of the Games will likely have significant economic ramifications and cause a number of logistical problems for the sporting calendar. Only 57 per cent of athletes had qualified for Tokyo 2020 and the postponement will enable time for the necessary qualifying events to be held before next year’s Games.

It marks the first time ever that the Olympics have been postponed.

Image: Tokyo 2020