It’s official: Tokyo Olympics postponed until 2021 due to coronavirus

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach walks with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during the ‘One Year to Go’ ceremony celebrating one year out from the start of the summer games on July 24, 2019. (Reuters)
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Updated 25 March 2020

It’s official: Tokyo Olympics postponed until 2021 due to coronavirus

  • Postponement is first in Games’ 124-year history
  • Games to be rescheduled beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021

DUBAI: On Tuesday, what even the most optimistic of sport fans must have suspected all along, was confirmed: The Tokyo Olympics will now be postponed due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis.

After a conference call on Tuesday morning that saw President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Thomas Bach, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and other stakeholders discuss the latest developments, it was announced that Tokyo 2020 will be pushed back to a later date.

The official IOC statement said: “In the present circumstances and based on the information provided by the WHO 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 announcement brings to an end a prolonged saga of indecision. Late on Monday night, a comment by IOC member Dick Pound in USA Today had all but confirmed a delay was a mere formality. 

“The parameters going forward have not been determined but the games are not going to start on 24 July, that much I know,” he said.

Yoshiro Mori, president of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games Organizing Committee, at a news conference after a telephone meeting with IOC President Thomas Bach Tuesday. (Reuters)

A subsequent statement by the British Olympic Association calling for postponement made the UK the latest country unwilling to risk the health of its athletes.

The cancellation was the unavoidable conclusion of a series of events and announcements made over the previous 48 hours.

First came the announcement on Sunday night by the IOC that a decision on whether the Tokyo Olympics would go ahead in July would be taken in four weeks time.

As the world came to a stand- still due to the spread of COVID- 19, even this concession seemed out of touch with the reality on the ground.

Things were changing by the hour. On Monday morning, Abe, speaking to parliament, acknowledged that the country must seriously consider postponing Tokyo 2020, potentially until next year, though there was no suggestion that it would be canceled.
“The IOC’s decision is along the lines of what I said before, of holding the event in its complete form,” he said.

“If that becomes difficult, and thinking first about the health of the athletes, we may have no option but to consider postponing the games.”
Even that statement faced criticism for what many considered to be a failure to take into account the rapidly changing health crisis.

Around the world, major sporting leagues, competitions and activities had long been suspended, including football’s Euro 2020, which was pushed back to 2021. And yet the organizers of the Tokyo Olympics had stubbornly held their ground.
In recent weeks, there had been a swell of opposition to the games taking place as scheduled, with many individual country federations fearing for the safety of their athletes, and that’s before getting to the issue of ensuring the health of staff, volunteers and fans still considering attending the events.

In the Middle East, the developments cast a shadow over a prevailing sense of of wary optimism. On March 18, a delegation from the UAE National Olympic Committee (UAE NOC) met with Akima Umezawa, consul-general of Japan in Dubai, to discuss preparations and logistics for the games. 

The delegation received a replica of Tokyo 2020’s mascot “Miraitowa.”

However, events elsewhere over a dramatic 48 hours rapidly overtook  this sense of normalcy. On March 20, the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee (SAOC) had thrown its support behind the IOC in a tweet that confirmed talks with the World Health Organization regarding the crisis were ongoing.

“Following a conference call this morning, led by the President Dr Thomas Bach, and the Asian Olympic Committee to discuss the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the preparation for Tokyo 2020, Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee and its president Prince Abdul Aziz Turki Al-Faisal express their full support to the efforts of the IOC, in collaboration WHO, to overcome this very critical time,” the statement said. 

It added: “SAOC wishes that the Tokyo 2020 Games will be the moment that the world celebrates the successful transition to prosperity after defeating this global pandemic.” That celebratory moment will now have to wait.

What next for Premier League’s ‘Project Restart’

Updated 03 June 2020

What next for Premier League’s ‘Project Restart’

  • Restart to begin with 2 matches on June 17, to ensure every side played same number of games

LONDON: The Premier League's return is just two weeks away but there are plenty of details for the 20 clubs in the English top-flight to work out before competitive action resumes on June 17.

AFP Sport looks at what is on the agenda at the latest in a series of meetings between the clubs on Thursday.

There have been squabbles over how final league standings should be decided if the season cannot be completed but clubs need a contingency arrangement if a spike in coronavirus cases wrecks their plans.

Most of the teams in the bottom half of the table are reportedly pushing for relegation to be scrapped if the season is not completed on the field.

That still seems highly unlikely, with the English Football Association and English Football League both insisting on promotion and relegation throughout the pyramid.

A points-per-game formula is the most likely option and is part of the reason why the restart will begin with two matches on June 17, to ensure every side has played the same number of games.

Once the two outstanding games — Manchester City vs. Arsenal and Aston Villa vs. Sheffield United — have been played, all 20 sides will have nine games remaining.

No dates for other matches have yet been released, but fixtures are expected to continue from where they left off in March and be crammed into just five weeks ahead of the FA Cup final on August 1.

A long layoff, little time together in contact training and a gruelling schedule mean players' bodies will be pushed to the limits.

In an attempt to minimize injuries and fatigue, world governing body FIFA has allowed leagues to temporarily change their rules to allow five substitutes.

Chelsea have also reportedly proposed increasing the number of substitutes available from seven to nine.

However, critics have suggested those changes will simply play into the hands of the bigger clubs with deeper squads.

Premier League clubs appear to have won their battle to have games played in their own grounds rather than on neutral sites.

However, the UK's national lead for football policing confirmed last week that a "small number" of fixtures will take place at neutral venues.

That is likely to include any match that could see Liverpool crowned champions for the first time in 30 years, to try and avoid crowds gathering at Anfield.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is unconcerned by playing at neutral venues, with results from four rounds of Germany's Bundesliga showing no advantage for home sides in a closed-doors environment.

"We will not have the help from the crowd but no team will have that, so where is the advantage?" Klopp told the BBC.

"Whoever we play it is the same situation, which is why I'm not too worried about it."

The use of VAR could also be dispensed with for the rest of the season should the clubs wish to further cut the number of people required for games to go ahead.

However, the Premier League's CEO Richard Masters is keen for it to remain.

"VAR has its own social-distancing issues, but we think there is a way of completing the season with VAR," Masters told Sky Sports.