Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe today announced that the Olympic and Paralympic Games, which were set to be held in Tokyo later this year, will be postponed until next year due to the impact that the current Coronavirus pandemic could have on the health of spectators, volunteers and athletes.

Despite the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announcing on Sunday that they would give themselves four weeks to make the decision, a meeting was held yesterday in which the decision was made to suspend both Games until a safer time. A joint statement from IOC and Tokyo 2020 today confirmed the postponement:

“The unprecedented and unpredictable spread of the outbreak has seen the situation in the rest of the world deteriorating.

“On Monday, the director general of the World Health Organization, 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 (Tuesday), 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.”

International Paralympic Committee president Andrew Parsons commended the decision, saying:

“Postponing the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games as a result of the global COVID-19 outbreak is absolutely the right thing to do. The health and well-being of human life must always be our number one priority and staging a sport event of any kind during this pandemic is simply not possible.

“Sport is not the most important thing right now, preserving human life is. It is essential therefore that all steps are taken to try and limit the spread of this disease.

“At a time when many major communities around the world are in lockdown, with workplaces and shops closed and people urged not to leave their own homes, continuing to pursue the dream of the Tokyo 2020 Games happening this year does not make sense; postponement is the only logical option.

“By taking this decision now, everyone involved in the Paralympic Movement, including all Para athletes, can fully focus on their own health and well-being and staying safe during this unprecedented and difficult time.”

Chelsey Gotell, Chairperson of the IPC Athletes’ Council, said: “From an athlete viewpoint this is the right decision for the athletes, the Games and the wider Paralympic Movement.  We all now have greater clarity about when the Games will take place, and this is very welcome news for the global Para-athlete community.

“We are happy that the IOC and Japan’s Prime Minister Abe took this decision so quickly.  It enables athletes to take a step back and focus on the current situation at hand.”

Mike Sharrock, CEO of the BPA, said: “The British Paralympic Association fully supports the decision to postpone the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Stemming this global public health crisis and doing everything possible to safeguard the health and wellbeing of people should clearly take priority in these unprecedented times.

“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.”

Team USA has also commented on the postponement. Canada and Australia had already pulled its athletes from the games, as reported yesterday.

British Paralympic legend Kadeena Cox was among the first to comment on the decision, writing on Instagram: “Different timeline, same goal. The right decision to make and thank you for those put in the hard position to have to make the decision! Let’s stick together in these tough times and come out the other side stronger mentally and physically.”

A new date for the Games has not yet been announced, but the IOC has said that they will take place “no later” than the summer of next year.

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