The decision that the world has been waiting for has finally been made – the Tokyo Olympics have been postponed until next year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
It follows a phone call on Tuesday between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe and Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) with the pair agreeing that it was impossible to hold the Games as planned this summer, and that new dates in 2021 will have to be found,
In recent days the pressure from myriad groups to postpone the Games has been growing. On Monday, Canada became the country to unilaterally withdraw its teams from the Games, citing concerns over the safety of its athletes. Meanwhile, Team Australia was telling its own athletes to start preparing for a 2021 Olympics.
Meanwhile, the head of World Athletics, Lord Coe, who, as recently as last Friday was saying that it was too early to make a decision on the postponement, had completely revised his position within three days, and stated that it would be impossible for the Olympics to go ahead in the present circumstances without undermining the integrity of the competition.
The news will be welcome to those athletes who have been struggling to train given restrictions on movements and the new guidelines on social distancing. It also means that those Indian athletes still stuck in training camps should leave them straight away and head home, self-isolating where necessary.
The news is a huge blow to the host nation, which has invested some US $12 billion in the Games, and which will lose substantial sums from broadcasters and sponsors as a result of the postponement. And the country’s tourism industry will also suffer – some 600,000 foreign visitors were expected to arrive in Tokyo in the summer months this year, and airlines, hotels, and restaurants will all be affected.
And, there are also the tickets that need to be refunded – 4.5 million tickets have already been sold within Japan itself.
Rescheduling the Games will be no easy feat, although the delay should not be more than a year. One complication is that the next Winter Olympics are scheduled for Beijing in the early part of 2022, so there needs to be a sufficient gap between the two events for logistical, organisational and administrative reasons.
However, the postponement at least gives everybody breathing room and means there is no longer the same pressure to make hard decisions that affect thousands of lives, at least in sporting terms.