The International Olympic Committee and Japanese organizers came to an agreement on Tuesday to postpone the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics for up to a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Tokyo Summer Olympics postponed
The Tokyo Summer Olympics will now take place in 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic. (Image: Jae C. Hong/AP)

The decision comes a day after IOC member Dick Pound revealed that the decision to push back the Summer Olympics had already been made, but that the logistics of the move were still being worked out.

Summer Olympics Coming ‘Not Later Than Summer 2021’

On Sunday, the IOC said it would take up to four weeks to decide whether a postponement was warranted. Several national Olympic committees urged the IOC to suspend the 2020 Summer Olympics, with Canada and Australia both announcing that they would not send teams if the Games were held this year.

On Tuesday, IOC president Thomas Bach and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe officially announced the 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,” read a joint statement from the IOC and the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee.

Prior to Tuesday’s announcement, only wars had forced the suspension or cancellation of prior Olympics. World War I stopped the 1916 Summer Olympics, while World War II canceled the Games in both 1940 and 1944.

Federations, Athletes Praise Delay

Olympic committees worldwide praised the decision, saying that athletes now have the clarity they need to focus on themselves and their families.

“It is with profound sadness that we accept the postponement, but in all consciousness, it is the only decision we can support in light of the devastating impact COVID-19 is having on our nation, our communities, and our families,” British Olympic Association CEO Andy Anson said in a statement. “It is time for them to stop thinking about Tokyo 2020 for now and be home and safe with their families.”

Many athletes also posted messages of support for the decision on social media, including American swimmer and five-time gold medalist, Katie Ledecky.

“As we stand together to meet today’s challenges, we can dream about a wonderful Olympics in a beautiful country. Now is the time to support all those working to heal the sick and keep us all healthy,” Ledecky posted online.

The IOC has yet to announce an official date for the rescheduled Summer Olympics. The 2020 Games were to begin on July 24.

One of the major logistical challenges in rescheduling the Olympics will be how nations deal with qualifying for various sports. While some athletes have already gone through qualifying, others were waiting for their opportunity to compete for spots on national teams. Delaying the games for a year opens up the possibility that some athletes won’t be healthy or available to play, or that some national federations may wish to hold new qualifiers for their teams in the interim.

The delay also comes with severe financial repercussions. Japan spent at least $12.6 billion to bring the Summer Olympics to Tokyo. Even if the Games go forward in 2021, it is unlikely that the Olympics will have the same tourism impact for Japan as was expected this summer.

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