For thousands of athletes around the world waiting for the huge event, it would have been considered as a nightmare scenario. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become a reality as the Tokyo Olympics are now officially postponed to 2021.
Just one week ago, Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe was still adamant to carry on: “We will overcome the spread of the infection and host the Olympics without a problem, as planned.”
However, the final decision rests on the International Olympic Committee (IOC), as he said, and the decision has been issued now after talks between him and the IOC.
Accordingly, the IOC issued the following statement:
“In the present circumstances, and based on the information provided by the World Health Organisation 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 statement continued with a message of empowerment: “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.”
The fate of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics was in effect sealed this week when Canada and Australia confirmed they would not send their athletes to Tokyo, while Britain and France urged the IOC to make a quick decision.
This isn’t the first time in its history that the Olympic Games’ authorities had to take a similarly difficult decision. There had been previous cancelations due to wars and complications by boycotts.
This is the first time though that the Olympic Games have ever been postponed.
The decision was welcomed by the British Olympic Association’s chief executive Andy Anson, who agreed that the organizers had no other choice but to cancel the Games.
“It is with profound sadness that we accept the postponement, but in all consciousness, it is the only decision we can support in light of the devastating impact COVID-19 is having on our nation, our communities, and our families,” he said.
The postponement is a blow to Japan, which has spent more than $12bn on the event, while huge sums are also at stake for sponsors and broadcasters. Goldman Sachs estimated that Japan would lose $4.5bn in inbound and domestic consumption in 2020 if the Olympics did not take place as planned.
Beyond finances, this decision will also cause serious disruptions for athletes, many of whom have put college or other opportunities on hold to train full-time with a goal of peaking in the Olympics.
Now, they will have to put their training on hold. Some might lose the will to train as their Olympic dreams vanished, a nightmare came true for them.
However, humanity is at war with a global enemy, with too many at stake, and that takes the top priority at this stage.
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