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Tokyo Olympics deferred amid coronavirus chaos

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The Tokyo Olympics which was scheduled to be held from July 24, 2020, has been rescheduled to a date no later than summer 2021, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Japanese organisers said on Tuesday.

The accelerating Covid-19 crisis has forced the Olympics to be postponed for the 1st time in its 124-year modern history.

“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 IOC said in a statement.

“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.”

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and IOC president Thomas Bach discussed the possibility of postponement over the phone from Tokyo on Tuesday. Abe said that the IOC boss agreed 100 percent to Japan’s proposal of postponing the Games by a year.

The IOC had faced flak for delaying what seemed to be an inevitable decision despite growing voices against hosting the Olympics as scheduled. Several athletes and sporting federations across the globe expressed their concern over preparation and safety in the wake of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

However, on Sunday, the IOC for the 1st time spoke about the postponement and said a final call would be taken in 4 weeks’ time.

IOC president Thomas Bach wrote a letter to athletes even as an Executive Board Meeting took place on Sunday via teleconference. The IOC is planning to step up ‘scenario planning’ during the said time period and will consider postponement.

However, the pressure on the IOC grew further as Canada and Australia announced on Monday that they would be pulling out from the Games if it is held as scheduled despite the coronavirus threat.

On Monday, veteran IOC member Dick Pound said that the Olympic delay was decided and that it would definitely not start on July 24.