The Tokyo Olympics have been postponed until the summer of 2021 due to the coronavirus crisis.
It is the first time in the Olympics’ 124-year history that the Games have been delayed, though they were cancelled completely on three occasions during the two World Wars.
The Paralympic Games have also been postponed until 2021.
The International Olympic Committee – who had been under increasing pressure to suspend the summer’s event – made a joint statement with the Tokyo 2020 organising committee.
“In the present circumstances and based on the information provided by the WHO (World Health Organisation) 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 statement read.
“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.”
The postponement of the games will have huge financial implications for Japan, with the total cost of the Tokyo Olympics being estimated at almost $US12 billion.
Hosting the games next summer will add to an already overcrowded sporting calendar, with the world of sport being decimated by the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus. The rescheduled Games are now in danger of clashing with 2021 World Athletics Championships and the World Swimming Championships.
United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) chief Travis Tygart fears the delay will encourage drug cheats.
“This was an issue raised on a call of national anti-doping agencies from 21 countries today,” Tygart told Reuters on Tuesday.
“It is one of many complex issues that will have to be thought through and determined now that the Games have been postponed.”