People take pictures of a Tokyo 2020 countdown clock displaying the current date and time outside Tokyo Station, Wednesday, March 25, 2020, in Tokyo. Not even the Summer Olympics could withstand the force of the coronavirus. After weeks of hedging, the IOC took the unprecedented step of postponing the world’s biggest sporting event, a global extravaganza that’s been cemented into the calendar for more than a century.
For the first time in history, the Olympic Games has been moved, set for an odd year – 2021.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic sweeping across the globe and continuing to spread, authorities were forced into a decision regarding the biggest multi-sport event in the world. The quadrennial games are now set for the summer of 2021 at the latest, albeit sponsorship and branding of the 2020 Summer Olympics will remain. The Games of the 32nd Olympiad will still be officially opened at the Japan National Stadium in Tokyo, Japan, sometime in 2021.
During a conference call between International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach, Prime Minister of Japan Shinzō Abe, President of the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (TOCOG) Yoshirō Mori, Governor of Tokyo Yuriko Koike and others yesterday, a joint decision was made to postpone the games as a result of the danger posed by the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Bahamas Olympic Committee (BOC) President Romell Knowles reiterated that the health and well-being of Team Bahamas and the entire Bahamian contingent would not have been compromised in any event.
“What they have done is in the best interest of our athletes, our sponsors, our patrons, all the coaches and officials and the public at large,” said Knowles. “If I could describe how we feel right now in one word, that word would be ‘relief’. Athletes from around the world now have a clear and better understanding about these games. With social distancing going on worldwide, it became very difficult for the athletes to train in a proper and conducive environment to bring out peak performances. Also, a number of qualifying meets had to be postponed and training centers were closed down.
“At no time did the Bahamas Olympic Committee doubt the International Olympic Committee on the course of action that would be in the best interest of the Olympic Movement. We were satisfied that, at the appropriate time, the IOC president along with the executive board and along with the governor and good people of Tokyo would have made the right decision for these Olympic Games. I wish to thank personally the governor of Tokyo and the president of the National Olympic Committee of Japan for the fine work that they are doing in the hosting of what I believe will be one of the best Olympic Games in our history. Technology-wise, they have surpassed every expectation.”
Bach and Abe both expressed concern about the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, what it is doing to people’s lives and the significant impact it is having on global athletes’ preparations for the games. It was stated that the Games must be postponed beyond 2020 to safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games and the international community.
The two leaders praised the work of TOCOG and noted the great progress that is being made in Japan to fight against COVID-19. Despite its proximity to mainland China, where the virus originated and where there are the most cases, the nation of Japan is not in the top 20 of most infected countries in the world. There are now over 415,000 cases worldwide with more than 18,500 deaths and that number is growing by the hour. It is affecting 196 countries and territories in the world.
Bach and Abe agreed that the Olympic Games could stand as a beacon of hope to the world during these troubled times and that the Olympic flame could become the light at the end of the tunnel in which the world finds itself at present. Therefore, it was agreed that the Olympic flame will stay in Japan, and it was also agreed that the games will keep the name Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.
Knowles is appealing to Bahamian athletes to adjust their schedules accordingly and prepare for an Olympic year in 2021.
“Now, more work begins,” said Knowles. “We have to now speak to the IOC to see if the Olympic scholarships will be extended and we have to speak to the government of The Bahamas about the athletes’ subventions and the federation grants to see how best they could be administered in the best interest of keeping our athletes on the cutting edge and ready for the 2021 Olympic Games.
“To the athletes, now that you have a timetable, use the time wisely and prepare for the Olympic Games of 2021. We, the Bahamas Olympic Committee, stand by your side and ready to assist wherever possible. This virus will cause a slowdown in the economy and we must use every prudence in the resources that we have at our disposal.
“To the national federations, I want to thank them for their patience until the decision was reached. We know that it was a most difficult and frustrating time and we thank the federations on being so patient. We will now begin preparation for Tokyo 2020 although it will be held in 2021.”
World Athletics, the global governing body for track and field, released a statement yesterday praising the IOC, the prime minister of Japan and TOCOG for the joint decision.
“This is what athletes wanted and we believe this decision will give them, technical officials and volunteers some respite and certainty in these unprecedented and uncertain times,” read the statement.
According to the relevant authorities, the games might be postponed but cancellation of the multi-sport event was not an option.