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OCI confirm Olympic Games postponed until next year, following agreement with Japanese Prime Minister Abe

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A security guard walks past the Olympic rings near the New National Stadium in Tokyo (AP)

A security guard walks past the Olympic rings near the New National Stadium in Tokyo (AP)

A security guard walks past the Olympic rings near the New National Stadium in Tokyo (AP)

The Tokyo Olympics have been postponed until the summer of 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has announced.

The Games must be rescheduled to a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021, the International Olympic Committee said in a statement.

Abe was speaking to reporters after a phone call with IOC President Thomas Bach on postponing the Games amid growing concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.

"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," Abe said. "President Bach said he is in agreement 100 percent."

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Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe talks to the journalists in front of the prime minister's residence in Tokyo, Japan on Tuesday March 24 after a phone call with IOC President Thomas Bach on postponing the Olympic Games amid growing concerns over the coronavirus. Charly Triballeau/Pool via REUTERS

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe talks to the journalists in front of the prime minister's residence in Tokyo, Japan on Tuesday March 24 after a phone call with IOC President Thomas Bach on postponing the Olympic Games amid growing concerns over the coronavirus. Charly Triballeau/Pool via REUTERS

REUTERS

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe talks to the journalists in front of the prime minister's residence in Tokyo, Japan on Tuesday March 24 after a phone call with IOC President Thomas Bach on postponing the Olympic Games amid growing concerns over the coronavirus. Charly Triballeau/Pool via REUTERS

Although the IOC announced on Sunday that they would take a month to decide what to do next, events have moved so fast that they had little option but to speed up their decision-making.

Once the Japanese government and the IOC agreed to the postponement it removed one of the major legal obstacles which was effectively blocking the decision.

Had either party make the decision unilaterally, they could have been accused of breaching the contract signed by the IOC and the host city which would have left them liable to be sued for millions in compensation claims.

While the decision was expected, it will come both as a relief but also a huge disappointment to the thousands of athletes who had either qualified or were preparing to qualify for the Games.

This is only the third time in Olympic history that the Summer Games have not taken place on their scheduled date.

In 1916, 1940 and 1944 the Games were cancelled due to World War I and World War II respectively, but this time around they are being postponed for 12 months.

An OCI statement read: "The president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Thomas Bach, and the Prime Minister of Japan, Abe Shinzo, held a conference call this morning to discuss the constantly changing environment with regard to Covid-19 and the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

"They were joined by Mori Yoshiro, the President of the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee; the Olympic Minister, Hashimoto Seiko; the Governor of Tokyo, Koike Yuriko; the Chair of the IOC Coordination Commission, John Coates; IOC Director General Christophe De Kepper; and the IOC Olympic Games Executive Director, Christophe Dubi.

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Two spectators take a selfie with the Olympic Flame during a ceremony in Fukushima City, Japan on Tuesday March 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Two spectators take a selfie with the Olympic Flame during a ceremony in Fukushima City, Japan on Tuesday March 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

AP

Two spectators take a selfie with the Olympic Flame during a ceremony in Fukushima City, Japan on Tuesday March 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

"President Bach and Prime Minister Abe expressed their shared concern about the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, and what it is doing to people’s lives and the significant impact it is having on global athletes’ preparations for the Games.

"In a very friendly and constructive meeting, the two leaders praised the work of the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee and noted the great progress being made in Japan to fight against COVID-19.

"The unprecedented and unpredictable spread of the outbreak has seen the situation in the rest of the world deteriorating. Yesterday, the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said that the COVID-19 pandemic is "accelerating".

"There are more than 375,000 cases now recorded worldwide and in nearly every country, and their number is growing by the hour.

"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 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."

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