ATHENS (Reuters) - The International Olympic Committee and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have concluded the Tokyo 2020 Olympics must be postponed, and held no later than the summer of 2021, the IOC and Tokyo 2020 organisers said on Tuesday.
After a call with IOC president Thomas Bach, Abe said the July 24-Aug. 9 event would be rescheduled for the summer of 2021 at the latest, as proof of victory over the coronavirus.
“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... in Tokyo must be rescheduled to a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021,” the IOC said in a statement after Abe had confirmed the postponement.
“To safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games and the international community,” it said.
It is the first time in the Olympics’ 124-year history that they had been postponed, though they were cancelled outright several times during the two 20th century World Wars.
The IOC, however, said they will remain known as the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games even though they will be held in 2021.
“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,” it said.
The Olympic flame arrived in Japan last week after a torch lighting ceremony in ancient Olympia, Greece, and a domestic relay of the flame had been due to kick off on Thursday.
Pressure on the IOC and its powerful president Bach had been accelerating fast in recent days, with Canada and Australia refusing to participate if the Games went ahead in the summer.
Athletes have been struggling with Olympic preparations amid coronavirus restrictions around the world.
Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Christian Radnedge