Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe acknowledged for the first time today that the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo could be postponed.
Abe, speaking before Japan’s Budget Committee in the Upper Level of Parliament, broke with his past stance on adamantly supporting a full and complete Olympic Games this summer despite a global pandemic of the coronavirus, hoping the spread of the virus would dissipate as the opening of the Olympics grew closer on July 24.
The International Olympic Committee, which will make the ultimate decision, said Sunday it will make a final decision within four weeks because of the difficulties of rescheduling a massive global sporting event like the Olympics.
“The IOC’s decision is along the lines of what I said before, of holding the event in its complete form. If that becomes difficult – and thinking first about the health of the athletes – we may have no option but to consider postponing the Games,” Abe said.
His abrupt change was most likely influenced by growing pressure from several countries to postpone the Games until the summer of 2021. USA Swimming and USA Gymnastics have both previously called on Japan and the IOC to postpone the Olympics.
But on Sunday, Canada and Australia announced separately that they would not be sending any athletes to compete in Tokyo this summer, a decision likely to be followed by numerous countries and all but forcing the IOC’s hand.
“While we recognize the inherent complexities around a postponement, nothing is more important than the health and safety of our athletes and the world community,” the Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee said in a joint statement Sunday. “This is not solely about athlete health — it is about public health.”
The Australian Olympic Committee’s executive board met by teleconference Monday and unanimously agreed that an Australian Olympic team could not be assembled.
“It’s clear the Games can’t be held in July,” Ian Chesterman, Australian Team Chef de Mission for Tokyo, said in a statement. “Our athletes have been magnificent in their positive attitude to training and preparing, but the stress and uncertainty has been extremely challenging for them.”
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