Decision on postponing the Tokyo Olympics will be made in the next few days


A final decision on whether to postpone the Tokyo Olympics because of the coronavirus pandemic will be taken in the coming days, as more countries call for a delay. 

With pressure mounting every day, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach have scheduled a telephone conference at 11am today, the Japanese government said.

Japan’s Sankei newspaper reported today that the government were negotiating with the IOC to postpone the Games for up to a year, in what would be a first in the 124-year modern history of the Olympics.

The IOC and Japanese government had announced they would undertake a month-long consultation before making a final decision but there looks to have been a rethink as more and more voices joined the chorus of calls for a postponement.

Pictured: A man wearing a mask passes the logo of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games displayed on the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building. A decision on whether it will be cancelled will be made in the coming days 

On Monday, former IOC board member Dick Pound said the Swiss-based body appeared to have decided to delay the event, likely for a year, due to the virus.

It comes as the Tokyo Olympic torch relay will start Thursday as planned in northeastern Fukushima prefecture – but with no torch, no torchbearers, no public, and little ceremony. 

There will be an Olympic flame – that arrived on March 12 from Greece – carried in a lantern and transported by a vehicle along what organizers hope will be empty roadsides.  

The coronavirus outbreak has now infected more than 377,000 across 194 according to a Reuters tally on Tuesday morning, with over 16,500 deaths linked to the virus.

Efforts to contain it have led to major travel, commercial and social restrictions, which have also hindered the ability of many athletes to prepare for the Games.

Canada and Australia have already said they will not be sending teams to Tokyo if the Games go ahead as scheduled this year, while Britain said it was likely to follow suit after meeting with sporting body representatives on Tuesday.

The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee said it had listened to feedback from athletes and was encouraged by a clearer path towards postponement.

‘Even if the current significant health concerns could be alleviated by late summer, the enormous disruptions to the training environment, doping controls and qualification process can’t be overcome in a satisfactory manner,’ the USOPC said in a statement on Monday.

Pictured: A ceremony is held at Miyako Station of Sanriku Railway in Iwate Prefecture on March 22, 2020, marking the departure of the flame for this year's Tokyo Olympics on a tour of northeastern Japan

Pictured: A ceremony is held at Miyako Station of Sanriku Railway in Iwate Prefecture on March 22, 2020, marking the departure of the flame for this year’s Tokyo Olympics on a tour of northeastern Japan

The United States is by far the most successful nation in the history of the Games, while the rights deal with American broadcaster NBC to televise the Olympics represents from 50% to 70% of the IOC’s total annual revenues. 

Tony Estanguet, head of the Paris 2024 Olympics organising committee and an IOC member, said a delay of the 2020 Olympics was likely.

‘Today the Games are not the priority, the priority is health, and that is how the world of sports contributes to that international solidarity,’ Estanguet said on France Info radio.

Japan and the IOC have said calling off the Games entirely is not an option but a delay would present major logistical difficulties given the crowded global sporting calendar and other commercial considerations.

Pictured: A man wearing a face mask, amid concerns of the COVID-19 coronavirus, walks past a display showing a countdown to the start of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo

Pictured: A man wearing a face mask, amid concerns of the COVID-19 coronavirus, walks past a display showing a countdown to the start of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo

World Athletics said on Monday they would be willing to move their 2021 world championships, scheduled for Aug. 6-15 in Eugene, Oregon to clear a path for a 2021 Olympics.

A groundswell of concern from athletes – already struggling to train as gyms, stadiums and swimming pools close around the world – appeared to be tipping the balance towards that outcome.

‘I have ridden not just a rollercoaster but the entire theme park of emotions,’ Keesja Gofers, part of the Australian women’s water polo team, said on Instagram.

‘I am relieved. Athletes around the world will now have the chance at a proper preparation and the Olympics can, on whatever date they are held, continue to be a coming together of the world’s best at their best.’

An Olympics postponement would be a blow for host country Japan, which has pumped in more than $12 billion of investment, and huge sums are also at stake for sponsors and broadcasters.

A poll showed about 70% of the Japanese think it is appropriate to delay the Olympics, the Sankei said.

The Olympics have never before been delayed, though they were cancelled altogether in 1916, 1940 and 1944 during the two world wars. Major Cold War boycotts also disrupted the Moscow and Los Angeles Games in 1980 and 1984.

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