World reacts to crushing Tokyo Olympics call
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says he and the head of the International Olympic Committee have agreed to the idea of delaying the Tokyo Olympics by about one year.
Abe was speaking to reporters on Tuesday after a phone call with IOC President Thomas Bach on postponing the Games amid growing concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.
"We asked President Bach to consider postponement of about one year to make it possible for athletes to play in the best condition, and to make the event a safe and secure one for spectators," Abe said.
"President Bach said he is in agreement 100 per cent." Tokyo had completed preparations when the virus started spreading across the world. Despite insisting for months the Games would go ahead as planned, Abe this week said a delay may be unavoidable if the events could not be held in a complete form.
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike separately told reporters the Games, to be convened by summer of 2021, would still be branded "Tokyo 2020".
The postponed Olympics will be a "testament" to humanity's victory over the new coronavirus pandemic, Abe said on Tuesday.
The Japanese Prime Minister said he had secured agreement from the head of the International Olympic Committee to postpone the Games and then hold them "in a complete form as a testament to mankind's defeat of the new virus".
It didn't take long for athletes from around the world to react to the news. German track and field star Gesa Krause wrote on Twitter: "I saw it coming, but I simply can't believe it!"
Although athletes were understandably shattered, the majority agreed the right call had been made as many expressed their desire to push on and make sure they were in Tokyo in 2021.
Waited 8 years for this, what’s another 1 in the grand scheme of things? 😅📈💪🏽 As an athlete, it’s heartbreaking news about the olympics being postponed until 2021, but it’s for all the right reasons and the safety of everyone! Hope everyone keeps safe and stay indoors x pic.twitter.com/z0JlgV2efI— KJT (@JohnsonThompson) March 24, 2020
All in all a very wise decision to postpone the Olympics until 2021. I look forward to come back to Japan to defend my Olympic title next year and look forward to witness a wonderful event. I wish everybody good health in these challenging times. pic.twitter.com/jrhsFEe545— Eliud Kipchoge - EGH🇰🇪 (@EliudKipchoge) March 24, 2020
As we stand together to meet today’s challenges, we can dream about a wonderful Olympics in a beautiful country. Now is the time to support all those working to heal the sick and keep us all healthy. pic.twitter.com/RsLuidzeYw— Katie Ledecky (@katieledecky) March 24, 2020
The International Olympic Committee and the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee released a joint statement soon after Abe's announcement.
"President Bach and Prime Minister Abe expressed their shared concern about the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, and what it is doing to people's lives and the significant impact it is having on global athletes' preparations for the Games," the statement read.
"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.
"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 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."
Australian Olympic Committee CEO Matt Carroll told reporters on Monday he would not send a team for Japan with the understanding the Olympics would be postponed.
"We have athletes based overseas, training at central locations around Australia as teams and managing their own programs. With travel and other restrictions this becomes an untenable situation," Carroll said in a statement on Monday.
Australian Team Chef de Mission for Tokyo Ian Chesterman said "it's clear the Games can't be held in July".
"Our athletes have been magnificent in their positive attitude to training and preparing, but the stress and uncertainty has been extremely challenging for them.
"They have also shouldered the burden of concern for their peers around the world. That has been a consistent message to me.
"While there will still be much to work out as a result of this change, the timing will allow athletes from around the world to properly prepare with the hope the coronavirus crisis will be under control.
"We are aware that for many such a postponement will present a range of new issues. But when the world does come together at the Tokyo Olympic Games they can be a true celebration of sport and humanity."
Originally published as World reacts to crushing Olympics call