It’s official! The 2020 Olympic Games, to be held in Tokyo, Japan, have been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The event—one of the biggest spectacles on the planet–is now set to take place sometime before the end of summer 2021, although the details have yet to be worked out or announced. The ongoing outbreak of the virus will also have an impact on when the event will take place, as nations around the globe struggle to come to grips with the disease that has now infected nearly 400,000 people and claimed the lives of more than 17,000 worldwide.
Rumors of a potential cancellation or postponement have been circulating for several weeks, but became much more likely following a statement from an International Olympic Committee member yesterday. That’s when IOC veteran Dick Pound (Yes, that’s his real name) hinted that the postponement was coming. It took another day to make it official, but now Shinzo Abe, the Prime Minister of Japan, has confirmed the decision.”Considering the current situation, in regards to the Tokyo Games, as the host nation, in order to ensure that athletes from all over the world are able to compete in their best condition, and also in order to ensure the utmost safety for the spectators, I have asked him to consider postponing the games by about a year,” Abe said. He also went on to confirm that Japan would honor its commitment to hosting the games.
The announcement also comes just two days after Canada announced that its team would not take part in the Summer Games were they to be held. Not long after, Australia expressed the same sentiment, pulling its team from the competition as well. More countries were expected to follow in the days ahead, as resources, funds, and the health of the athletes and spectators all became increasingly more important during the current crisis.
Japan itself has done a reasonably good job at containing and fighting the COVID-19 virus, but with many countries only now starting to feel the impact, it was becoming increasingly unlikely for the games to be held in a safe manner. Numerous European nations—including Italy, France, and Spain—are currently in a quarantine mode, while others are bracing for similar actions. The hope is to have things return to some state of normalcy in two to three months time, but that leaves little margin for error and less time for athletes to prepare.
Obviously this is a major disappointment for fans of the Olympics, myself included. But, it is also the only safe and logical thing to do as well. We can be patient and wait another year if it means everyone is safer and in a better position to take part in this athletic showcase.