When longstanding International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound revealed in an interview yesterday that the Tokyo Games were being postponed, there wasn’t much of a reason to question the truth of the statement. Pound is a former Vice President of the IOC and is venerated in the Olympic community.
Nonetheless, the IOC didn’t confirm his claim when asked, with a spokesperson only saying, “It is the right of every IOC member to interpret the decision of the IOC executive board which was announced yesterday.”
But now the IOC President Thomas Bach and the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have announced they’ve mutually agreed to postpone the Tokyo Olympics by a year.
The joint statement notes that the pandemic is “accelerating,” with more than 375,000 confirmed cases worldwide with the number “growing by the hour.” The bolding for emphasis is ours:
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, to safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games and the international community.
The leaders agreed that the Olympic Games in Tokyo 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. It was also agreed that the Games will keep the name Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.
The announcement puts to end months of speculation and anxiety among athletes, who now have a host of new questions that are yet to be answered, chief among them that of whether or not athletes who have qualified for the 2020 Games will need to re-qualify in 2021.
Phil Andrews, CEO of USA Weightlifting:
— Phil Andrews (@PhilAndrewsUSA) March 24, 2020
Katherine Nye, International Weightlifting Federation Junior World Champion:
Absolutely crushed. Calling on @iocmedia and all NGBs to ensure those who have qualified for these games will compete whenever they are resumed.
— Katherine Nye (@KatherineNye6) March 23, 2020
Since dozens of Olympic qualifying events were canceled in the months preceding this announcement, there’s also the question of whether athletes who were consequently shut out of the qualification process will get another shot. We’ll report back with any updates.
Featured image via Ververidis Vasilis/Shutterstock