|An Olympic Games countdown clock in Tokyo, Japan, no longer shows the days left until the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, Wednesday, after the sporting event was postponed amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach agreed Tuesday to postpone the Tokyo 2020 Olympics until 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic. / EPA-Yonhap|
By John Duerden
With almost every other sport already postponed or cancelled, attention was on 2020 Olympics. Finally, on Tuesday, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Japan announced the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Games until 2021.
Last week, European football postponed its continental championship that takes place once every four years. It is one of the biggest sporting events in the world but will now be held in June 2021 instead of June 2020. Within hours, South America followed suit with its biggest football event. Other major sports such as golf, tennis and Formula One have cancelled or delayed some of the most famous events in the world.
That left just the Olympics, due to start in Tokyo on July 24. This event is so big that organizers were trying to delay a decision on possibly delaying the event for as longs as possible.
There had been growing calls from around the world to postpone the Games until next year. The problems are not just that airlines are grounding their aircraft and restricting travel but the fact that in many places, sporting facilities are no longer open as governments close as many public places as possible in attempts to stop the virus spreading.
"Athletes and para-athletes have been preparing for the whole of their sporting lives to get themselves in the best possible shape," said Nic Coward, head of UK Athletics on Friday. "But with facilities closing down, their ability to get themselves in the best possible shape is compromised at best." The chief executives of USA Swimming as well as USA Track and Field made similar comments and such messages were starting to be echoed around the world, from Norway to Brazil.
South Korea and China had been hopeful that the games would go ahead. On Friday, the foreign ministers of the three East Asian nations agreed in a conference call to support the staging of a "complete" games, with all events and fans present.
Thomas Bach, the head of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that is responsible for the games, said Thursday that it was too early to be making decisions.
"Nobody today can tell you what the developments are tomorrow, what they are in one month, not to mention in more than four months," Bach said in an interview with the New York Times. He said that the IOC understands the situation. "Of course we are considering different scenarios, but we are contrary to many other sports organizations or professional leagues in that we are four-and-a-half months away from the Games."
Opinion in Japan was starting to change. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had been firm in his resolve to stage the games as scheduled but even his statements became a little vaguer last week. In a survey carried out by The Asahi Shimbun, 63% of respondents said that the Olympics should be postponed with only 23% believing that they should be carried on with as planned.
But as countries such as Canada and Australia said that they would not send their athletes, there was no choice remaining.
The IOC and Japan bowed to the inevitable and, for the first time in peacetime since the modern games started in 1896, the Olympics will not go ahead as scheduled.