The International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced yesterday (Sunday) that it will consider a postponement of this summer’s Games in Tokyo due to the coronavirus pandemic, with it now appearing likely that the event will take place in 2021.

The IOC said it would step up its “scenario-planning” for the Olympics, which are due to take place from July 24 to August 9 before the Paralympics follow from August 25 to September 6.

Scenarios relate to “modifying existing operational plans” for the Olympics to go ahead on these dates, and also for changes to the start date of the Games. The IOC said this would provide a better picture of the developing health situation around the world and in host country Japan.

The IOC pointed to the dramatic increase in cases and new outbreaks of Covid-19 in countries around the world as a reason for stepping up its scenario-planning.

A number of venues would potentially be unavailable for the Games and if the event is to go ahead this year, adaptions would have to be made to the calendars of at least 33 Olympic sports.

The IOC insisted that a cancellation of the Games is “not on the agenda” as this would “not solve any of the problems or help anybody”. The IOC hopes to have finalised discussions with relevant parties within the next four weeks.

IOC president Thomas Bach said: “Human lives take precedence over everything, including the staging of the Games. The IOC wants to be part of the solution. Therefore we have made it our leading principle to safeguard the health of everyone involved, and to contribute to containing the virus.

“I wish, and we all are working for this, that the hope so many athletes, NOCs and IFs from all five continents have expressed will be fulfilled: that at the end of this dark tunnel we are all going through together, not knowing how long it is, the Olympic flame will be a light at the end of this tunnel.”

International Paralympic Committee (IPC) president Andrew Parsons said he supported the IOC’s decision, adding: “The next four weeks will provide time to see if the global health situation improves, while giving a window of opportunity to look into different scenarios should the dates of the Games need to be changed.

“As you can imagine, potentially changing the dates of the Olympic and Paralympic Games is a huge logistical challenge, and the IPC will support the IOC every step of the way.”

World Athletics, meanwhile, said that it welcomed discussions with the IOC to postpone the Games, stating that it stands ready to work on an alternative date.

Tomorrow, the British Olympic Association and the British Paralympic Association will host a conference call with the chief executives and performance directors of Olympic and Paralympic sports to discuss the impact Covid-19 has had on sport and athletes.

After the IOC announcement, the Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee said that they would not be sending athletes to the Games this summer and called for the IOC, IPC and World Health Organisation to postpone the Games for one year.

In addition, the Australian Olympic Committee executive board held an emergency teleconference on Monday morning and agreed a team could not be assembled for the 2020 Olympics amid the pandemic. It told athletes to prepare for the Olympic Games in 2021.

Meanwhile, both the 2020 Aussie rules AFL and the National Rugby League (NRL) seasons have been postponed following new measures introduced by Australia’s federal and state governments to combat the coronavirus outbreak.

Image: IOC/Christophe Moratal