In February, there was talk that the 2020 Tokyo Olympics Games could be cancelled due to the Covid-19 outbreak. Dick Pound, a former swimming champion from Canada and current member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), said it would depend on whether everything is under sufficient control and if people would be confident enough to travel to Tokyo by then.

Just last week, however, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe confidently announced that the Tokyo Olympics will push through as planned. Although Abe mentioned that the IOC would still have the final say on it, he felt confident that the infection would be overcome and that the Olympics will push through. It seems this is no longer the case.

After speaking with IOC President Thomas Bach over the phone, Abe announced yesterday, March 24, that the Tokyo Olympic Games will be moved to the summer of 2021 at the latest. Abe shares that he is the one who requested for the delay, so that athletes around the world can attend at their best and so that the spectators feel safe. He says Bach agreed 100%.

“We will work closely with the IOC to hold the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics in their complete form to show future generations that humanity overcame the coronavirus,” Abe said.

Due to Covid-19, many people had worried about the overall safety of the event, while some even wondered whether travel would even be permitted within the year and whether certain visa restrictions would be lifted. Both the IOC and the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee agreed that it would be impossible to hold the games anytime this year.

The Olympic flame will be staying in Japan in the meantime. “Sport is not the most important thing right now, preserving human life is,” Bach adds. “This Olympic flame will be the light at the end of this tunnel.”

Still, this is quite a blow to the country after spending USD12.6 billion (around S$18.2 billion) to stage the event. Aside from that, organisers will now have to renegotiate several arrangements, including venue, broadcaster and sponsor contracts.

While tickets to the Olympics currently have a no-refund policy, the IOC will be deciding whether refunds will be issued. “There’s no conclusion yet,” says Toshiro Muto, CEO of the Tokyo Organising Committee, “but we will give our full attention to them and respond appropriately in a way that will not cause any trouble to them.”

This is the first time the Olympic games have been delayed in more than 100 years of its history.

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