Japan on Tuesday asked for a one-year postponement of the Tokyo Olympic Games over coronavirus pandemic. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said a postponement is unavoidable if the Olympic Games cannot be held in a complete manner.
As reported earlier, he held telephone talks with the International Olympics Committee chief Thomas Bach after the global sporting body on Sunday said it would make a decision on the Games over the next four weeks.
The Olympics have never before been postponed but were cancelled in 1916, 1940 and 1944 during the two world wars. Ironically, Tokyo was also the first host city to be taken away the rights to host the Games in 1940 due to World War II. It were originally scheduled to be held from September 21 to October 6, 1940, but rescheduled for Helsinki in Finland, from July 20 to August 4, 1940, only to be cancelled.
Despite the postponement, both the Olympic and Paralympic will retain their respective original names -- Tokyo Olympic Games 2020 and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020. Also, the Olympic flame will remain in Japan.
Confirming that an agreement has been reached with the IOC to postpone the Games for one year due to the coronavirus pandemic, Abe said that "Summer 2021 is the latest that these Olympics could be held."
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Earlier, various national Olympic associations, including those of Canada, the United States, and Australia have expressed reservations about sending athletes to the Games. Japan was one of the first countries to braced the impact of coronavirus outbreak, which was later declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
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"After his telephone talks with IOC President Bach, PM Abe spoke to the press and explained that the two have agreed that the Tokyo Olympic Games would not be cancelled, and the games will be held by the summer of 2021," official handle of Japan's PM Office tweeted.
After his telephone talks with IOC President Bach, PM Abe spoke to the press and explained that the two have agreed that the Tokyo Olympic Games would not be cancelled, and the games will be held by the summer of 2021. pic.twitter.com/ihe8To2g3R— PM's Office of Japan (@JPN_PMO) March 24, 2020
A statement issued by the IOC and the Tokyo 2020 organising committee read: In the present circumstances and based on the information provided by the WHO [World Health Organisation], 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 statement came shortly after Abe's office tweeted to announce the news.
"After his telephone talks with IOC President Bach, PM Abe spoke to the press and explained that the two have agreed that the Tokyo Olympic Games would not be cancelled, and the games will be held by the summer of 2021," the tweet read.
Joint Statement from the International Olympic Committee and the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committeehttps://t.co/XNcaa4Gvx8— Olympics (@Olympics) March 24, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a huge toll on sports events all across the globe and there had been a relentless debate whether or not the quadrennial event should go ahead as planned.
The Tokyo Olympic Games were slated to be held from July 24 to August 9, while the Paralympic Games are scheduled to be held from August 25 to September 6.