Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will propose a one-year postponement for the Tokyo Olympics during talks with IOC President Thomas Bach.
Abe said that a postponement is inevitable if the 2020 Games cannot be held completely in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Abe held telephone talks with Bach after the IOC said he would make a decision on the Tokyo Games in the next four weeks.
Until a few days ago the IOC, together with the organizing committee of Tokyo and the Japanese government, had insisted that there were no plans to delay the Olympics since they should not have opened for another four months, but the Japanese public television NHK Tuesday reported that Abe wants a one-year delay.
The fate of Tokyo 2020 was actually sealed this week when Canada and Australia said they would not send the athletes to Japan in July, while the British and French governments called on the IOC to make a quick decision.
“I know this is excruciating for so many people, athletes, coaches, staff and fans, but this was absolutely the right choice and everyone should follow suit,” said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee followed suit, citing the enormous “upheaval” caused by the training pandemic and qualification process.
“Our most important conclusion from this broad response from the athlete is that although current significant health concerns could be alleviated by the end of the summer, huge disruptions in the training environment, doping controls and the process of qualification cannot be passed satisfactorily, “the committee said in a statement.
World Athletics, the Olympic committees of Brazil, Slovenia and Germany, USA Swimming, USA Track and Field had joined the growing chorus of invitations for a new date for the event.
London 2012 health and safety chief Lawrence Waterman urged the IOC to postpone the Games for the first time in their 124-year modern history, saying they could not be saved this year.
“These games must be postponed, and the sooner the IOC and the Japanese government deal with it, the better. It is simply not safe to put the games on during a global pandemic,” Waterman said in a statement.
“The safety and health of people should precede the costs of delay in contracts. The London Games were the first in history to be completed without a single fatality, we set health and safety standards for the Olympics.”
The Olympics were never delayed, but were canceled in 1916, 1940 and 1944 during the two world wars.
The hypothesis that an announcement was imminent increased on Monday when IOC member Dick Pound stated that the body had decided to postpone the Olympics by one year, describing it as the most likely solution to the biggest crisis of the Olympic movement since Moscow’s political boycott in 1980 and Los Angeles four years later. “This is my conclusion,” Pound told Reuters.
Pound said the IOC did not rush to an announcement so he could present a clear alternative plan to Japanese guests, sports federations and sponsors.
“Probably what has changed the situation in the past two days is the curve of the Covid-19 virus. It is getting very, very steep now and this is clearly not something that will be under control from June or July and probably not later this year, “he said.
The postponement will come as a blow to the host country, which spent more than $ 12 billion on the event, while huge sums are up for sponsors and broadcasters. Goldman Sachs estimated this month that Japan would lose $ 4.5 billion (550 billion yen) in domestic and incoming consumption in 2020 if the Olympics did not take place as expected.
Nikkei, a Japanese newspaper, said Monday that G7 leaders had agreed to a postponement during their conference call last week, after Abe persuaded them that cancellation was not an option.
Abe told the group that he was determined to keep the Games “in their full form” – with the full share of athletes and spectators – as a symbol of the world’s triumph over the coronavirus, Nikkei said. Boris Johnson reportedly responded with a thumbs up, while other leaders nodded their approval.
Abe this week hinted that the postponement was a possibility, a few hours after the IOC had said it would take up to four weeks to decide the fate of the Games.
“If the IOC decision means that it becomes impossible to keep the Olympics in their full form, a decision may have to be made to postpone them,” he told parliament on Monday.
The Japanese public had already accepted the inevitable. According to a Kyodo poll last week, nearly 70% of respondents said they did not expect the Games to go on this summer.