24 March 2020 14:31

Belfast The Troubles Police Service of Northern Ireland

Tokyo Olympics 2020 postponed: live updates and latest reaction as Japan PM and IOC agree to delay

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has given itself a deadline of four weeks to consider delaying Tokyo 2020, which is due to start on 24 July, because of the coronavirus pandemic. On Monday, IOC member Dick Pound said the event, scheduled to run until 9 August, will be postponed by one year. On Tuesday, an IOC spokesperson said: "Today, the IOC is discussing with the Japanese government, the Tokyo 2020 organising committee and the IOC executive board about the scenario planning including the postponement of the Games and will communicate in due course." It comes with the British Olympic Association (BOA) set to call for a postponement following a meeting of sports bodies later on Tuesday. The Canadian Olympic and Paralympic committee said it had taken "the difficult decision" to pull out after consulting athletes, sports groups, and the government. The postponement of the world's largest sporting event came after numerous other delays or cancellations in Japan and around the world.

In a conference call in March between the World Health Organization and the medical officers for the international sports federations that oversee Olympic events, participants discussed worst-case scenarios, including the possibility of holding the Games without spectators. Chief Executive of the BOA, Andy Anson, said: "It is with profound sadness that we accept the postponement, but in all consciousness it is the only decision we can support, in light of the devastating impact COVID-19 is having on our nation, our communities and our families. Sally Munday, CEO of UK Sport said: "We welcome today's decision from the IOC, IPC and Japan that the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games will be postponed. We also realise that today's decision has significant financial implications for our high performance system and we are working hard to identify the wide ranging impacts and scenarios and are in close contact with government to establish how best to support our summer Olympic and Paralympic sports and athletes to be ready for the Games when they do take place. Mike Sharrock, CEO of the BPA, added: "The British Paralympic Association fully supports the decision to postpone the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We welcome the clarity this now gives Paralympic athletes throughout the world who have had their training and qualification plans severely disrupted but also recognise it will still be a deeply unsettling time for athletes who have worked for years focussed on delivering their best possible performance in Tokyo this summer. "We recognise that there are a huge range of factors to be considered when looking to postpone an event at this scale and we acknowledge the scale of the challenge for our friends at the Tokyo organising committee, the IOC and IPC in addressing these. Sport has a unique power to inspire and bring people together and we are certain that the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games can be that beacon of hope for the whole world to focus on to show what the human spirit can achieve." The 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo have been postponed until next year. Despite the global coronavirus outbreak, International Olympic Committee chiefs had hoped the Games could go ahead as planned on July 24, with the Olympic flame travelling from Greece to Japan last Friday. While most major sporting events around the globe have long since been suspended or postponed, Olympics bosses felt it was too far out to make a decision particularly with Japan having largely got the virus under control domestically.

But both the IOC and the Japanese government came under fire for that stance, with Canada and Australia announcing they would not compete unless it was postponed, and at last the decision has reluctantly been made to rescheduled the Games. However, Japan's Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, claims he has now reached an agreement with IOC president Thomas Bach to postpone the Olympics for one year. 'We asked president Bach to consider postponement of about one year to make it possible for athletes to play in the best condition, and to make the event a safe and secure one for spectators,' said Abe. The International Olympics Committee (IOC) made the decision on Tuesday after Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe asked members on Monday to postpone the games due to measures taken to combat COVID-19. The IOC said the games will be held "not later than summer 2021" but will still be called the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. "In the present circumstances and based on the information provided by the 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 IOC said in a statement.

Before the official announcement, Mr Abe said IOC president Thomas Bach agreed "100% with him about postponing the games for a year. The IOC had said it would make a decision in four weeks' time but had come under mounting pressure to postpone the games now. There had been growing calls for Tokyo 2020 to not take place as the world struggles with the coronavirus pandemic, despite the committee insisting over the past few weeks it would go ahead. Canada and Australia confirmed on Monday they would not be sending their athletes to Tokyo for their own safety, while the British and French governments urged the IOC to make a quick decision. In the 124-years of the modern Olympics, the games has never been postponed, although it has been cancelled three times - in 1916, 1940 and 1944 due to the two world wars.