Japan PM: Tokyo Olympics postponed over coronavirus concerns

Tokyo’s 2020 Summer Olympic Games have been postponed upon the request of Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe.

Abe told NHK public television on Tuesday that he’d request a one-year postponement.

"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 IOC and the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee said in a joint statement.

The games had been slated to open on July 24 and run through Aug. 9. Now, they are the latest casualty of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

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The IOC faced intense international pressure to cancel or reschedule the games after many major sporting events were canceled and leagues suspended their seasons.

Brazil and Slovenia had been calling for postponement while Norway stressed it didn’t want its athletes to participate until the global health crisis was under control.

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Canada and Australia exacerbated the pressure on March 22 when they declared they would not be sending delegations if the games were still staged this year.

Earlier, on March 22, Abe said it would be difficult to hold the games in present conditions.

“If it is difficult to hold (the games) in a complete way, a decision of postponement would be unavoidable,” he said, according to the Associated Press.

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The next day, IOC member Dick Pond told USA Today the games would be postponed.

“On the basis of the information the IOC has, postponement has been decided,” Pound told the outlet. “The parameters going forward have not been determined, but the Games are not going to start on July 24, that much I know.”

Even so, the rest of the IOC distanced itself from that report, saying that it was only Pond’s interpretation of a recent meeting.

Forecasting the availability of the Olympic venues played a major role in the committee’s hesitation.

Many stadiums and arenas are already booked for use next year and much of the Olympic village had already been slated to be sold to private developers after this year’s games.

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The torch has already been lit. It arrived on March 20 and the relay is set to begin on March 26.

But organizers told the AP it will take place without torches or any of the traditional fanfare.

The flame will still follow the designed path of the torch relay, but it will do so in a lantern hauled in a vehicle.

This story was reported from Atlanta.