After several months of uncertainty, it has finally happened. The 2020 Summer Olympic Games slated to open in Tokyo on 24 July, have been postponed due to concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s the first time in the 124-year modern history that the games have been moved or delayed during peacetime.
Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe said, “We have agreed that the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics will be held by the summer of 2021 at the least,” as reported by The Wall Street Journal.
The novel coronavirus outbreak has claimed the scalp of major conferences, sports and other events across the world including the Mobile World Congress, Facebook F8 Developer Conference, Games Developer Conference, Formula One Grand Prix, NBA, NHL, English Premier League, and more.
The Tokyo Games was constantly under threat, with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and organisers mulling over its future. They were initially defiant, insisting that the games will go on. However, Canada and Australia had announced that they would not attend the games, while the UK and US have signalled a desire for a delay.
“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 IOC and the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee said in a joint statement. “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.
The Summer Olympics have been cancelled three times before—in 1916, 1940, and 1944. On the other hand, the Winter Games have been cancelled twice, in 1940 and 1944, during the world wars.
The most recent 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil was threatened by an outbreak of the mosquito-borne Zika virus. However, it still went ahead.
For host nation Japan, the financial impact of the Games postponement could be devastating; the country has invested between USD30-40 billion to prepare for the event. The Games were expected to attract around 10,000 athletes and 500,000 international visitors.
Header image: IOC | Getty Images