The Tokyo Olympics will take place, but almost certainly in 2021, and not four months later, as planned.
This became clear after the IOC announced on Sunday that it was considering a deferment. Major Olympic countries such as Canada and Australia have stepped up pressure, saying they won’t go if the games take place this year.
Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee, sent a letter to the athletes explaining the decision and why it might take so long, and also acknowledged that extending the deadlines could be unpopular.
“I know that this unprecedented situation leaves many of your questions open,” he wrote. "I also know that this rational approach may not correspond to the emotions that many of you have to go through."
The IOC movement seemed inevitable during the week with increasing pressure from all sides – athletes, sponsors, broadcasters and more than 200 national Olympic committees and international sports federations.
Shortly after Bach's statement, the Canadian Olympic Committee announced that it would not send teams to the Olympics if the games were not rescheduled for a year. Australia made a statement saying that it advises its athletes to prepare for the Olympics in 2021.
WATCH | Canada will not send a team to the Tokyo Olympics 2020:
The Executive Board of the Australian Committee unanimously agreed that "the Australian team cannot be assembled in changing circumstances at home and abroad."
World Athletics President Seb Coe sent a letter to Bach stating that holding the July Olympics is "not feasible and not desirable." He outlined a number of reasons, including fair competition, the likelihood that athletes would over-train if they were given a tight schedule, and the uncertainty caused by orders in many countries prohibiting people from attending gyms and other training venues.
National Olympic Committees in Brazil and Slovenia also called for a postponement until 2021. The Norwegian Olympic Authority said it does not want athletes to travel to Tokyo until the global health crisis is under control.
The US swimming and athletics governing bodies, two of three top-level summer sports, have urged their national Olympic officials to push for a deferment.
Japanese politicians quickly lined up on Monday when they realized the Bach movement.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, speaking at the parliamentary session, said that the transfer of the Olympic Games in Tokyo would be inevitable if the games were not completed completely due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“If it will be difficult to conduct (the Games) in full, a decision to postpone will be inevitable,” he said.
Abe said he hopes that the IOC will make a decision at an early stage if it is postponed, as this process will require a lot of work and should begin as soon as possible.
Tokyo Governor Yurko Koike repeated Abe.
“The IOC will fully learn what to do over the next four weeks, and this word (delay) may be included in this process,” she said.
The IOC retains most of the cards for any change in schedule, as indicated in the Host City Contract, signed in 2013 between the IOC, the Japanese Olympic Committee and the city of Tokyo.
Japan officially spends $ 12.6 billion on the organization of the Olympics, but the national audit estimates this figure more than twice. The account will necessarily increase with any deferral, and the vast majority of expenses – from the state treasury.
Silver Lining for Japan
The IOC has a reserve fund of about $ 2 billion. USA, and also has insurance against a delay or cancellation.
“The public expects and supports the postponement, so it won't really matter,” said Jeff Kingston, a student of Japanese politics at Temple University in Tokyo, in an email to the Associated Press. “People are much more concerned about the economic consequences and their work, as well as the increasing number of cases.”
Former IOC Marketing Director Michael Payne said the delay could work in favor of the IOC and Japan.
“What will be a better platform than the Olympics when the world can handle the virus,” Payne said in an interview with AP on Sunday, right before the IOC announcement. “You have a dynamic that will be even more powerful for Japan and the rest of the world. But you have a long way to go. ”
The Olympic torch arrived Friday in northern Japan. The torch relay was supposed to begin on Thursday from this zone, but there are doubts. On Sunday, thousands of people filled one northern city to see the flames. Spectators were asked to exercise restraint, and there is speculation that the relay race may be delayed. The organizers said Monday that a decision on whether the relay could continue could wait.
As of Sunday, 1719 confirmed cases of virus infection were recorded in Japan, including 712 from a cruise ship, with 43 deaths.
Although Japan has so far managed to slow the acceleration of the outbreak, experts say clusters of incurable infections are increasing in urban areas.