After weeks of speculation about whether or not the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo would go forward this summer as the world fights to contain the spread of the global coronavirus pandemic, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Japanese officials finally made the call on Tuesday (Mar. 24) to postpone the international sporting event.
IOC President Thomas Bach and Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo held a conference call to discuss their concerns regarding COVID-19 and the significant impact it is having on athletes who are preparing for the Games.
“The unprecedented and unpredictable spread of the outbreak has seen the situation in the rest of the world deteriorating,” IOC said in a joint statement together with the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee.
The officials concluded that based on information provided by the World Health Organization, the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 would 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.” A week later, they confirmed that the opening ceremony would be held on July 23, 2021, almost exactly one year later.
The event will keep the name Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.
Prior to this, the Olympics have only been canceled or postponed three other times—all due to war. And this isn’t the first time the event has been thwarted in Japan. World War I resulted in the cancellation of the Berlin Games, which had been scheduled to take place in 1916. A few decades later, Tokyo was set to host the 1940 Summer Olympic Games, and the 1944 Winter Olympic Games were scheduled to take place in Sapporo, Japan. Japan forfeited its right to host the Games after the outbreak of World War II, and the games were going to take place in Europe instead, but ultimately were canceled entirely.