Throughout their 124-year modern history, the Olympic Games, which is considered the most prestigious event in the sports world and that gathers the most qualified athletes from all over the world, has never been put off.
Nevertheless, in 1916, 1940, and 1944, the Games were canceled because of the First and the Second World Wars. Also, the boycotts led by the US and the Soviet Union as a consequence of the Cold War disrupted the 1980 Moscow and the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
During the current year, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics was postponed to 2021. This time, the delay was not due to any political conflict, the reason though was the dramatic spread of the pandemic COVID-19.
Suspension after a Conference Call:
On Tuesday morning (24th of March), the International Olympic Committee (IOC)’s President Thomas Bach, the Japanese Prime Minister (PM) Abe Shinzo, and the President of the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee Mori Yoshiro, held a conference call to discuss the situation of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games amid the concerns over the outbreak of COVID-19.
The meeting also included the Olympic Minister Hashimoto Seiko, and the Governor of Tokyo Koike Yuriko, the Chairperson of the IOC Coordination Commission John Coates, the IOC Director General Christophe De Kepper, and the IOC Olympic Games Executive Director Christophe Dubi.
To protect the athletes, everyone involved in the Olympic Games, and the international community, also based on the information that the World International Organization (WHO) presented on Tuesday, and the unpleasant surrounding circumstances, the IOC President and the Japanese PM agreed on rescheduling the biggest sporting event to a date later than 2020 but not after the summer of 2021.
In addition, they came to an accord that the Olympic flame is going to remain in Japan and that the competitions’ name Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 is not going be changed.
The International Paralympic Committee President Andrew Parsons said in this regard: “Postponing the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games as a result of the global COVID-19 outbreak is absolutely the right thing to do. The health and well-being of human life must always be our number one priority and staging a sports event of any kind during this pandemic is simply not possible.”
Canadian Team’s Withdrawal:
The decision came after the Canadian Olympic Committee (CPC) and the Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC) announced their withdrawal from the Olympics on Sunday (23rd of March 2020). Both entities were backed by the Athletes’ Commissions, National Sports Organizations and the Canadian Government. Furthermore, the COC and the CPC previously called on the IOC, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), and the WHO to put off the event for one year.
Commenting on the Canadian Team exiting the Games, the Canadian PM Justin Trudeau said: “I know this heartbreaking for so many people-athletes, coaches, staff and fans. But this was absolutely the right call and everyone should follow their lead.”
Responses in Australia:
A day before the IOC’s announcement, the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) clarified that: “The Australian athletes should prepare for a Tokyo Olympic Games in the northern summer of 2021.” After the official delay, the AOC recognized that moving the event to 2021 is a formidable task awaiting the Olympics’ organizers. Nonetheless, the AOC is sure that Japan will present a prestigious Olympics.
On his side, the AOC’s CEO Matt Carroll expressed: “It is a challenging moment in history during tragic times globally, but athletes and sports now have absolute clarity that enables them to focus on a Games in 2021.”
The British Sports Community’s Reaction:
On their part, the British Olympic Association (BOA), British Paralympic Association (BPA), and UK Sport esteemed the suspension’s pronouncement. In this regard, the BOA’s Chief Executive Andy Anson mentioned: “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.”
“The British Paralympic Association fully supports the decision to postpone the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” commented the BPA’s CEO Mike Sharrock. The UK Sport’s CEO Sally Munday added: “We welcome the decision from the IOC, IPC, and Japan that the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games will be postponed.”
Zika Virus & the Previous Olympics:
Although concerns were raised over the safety of the athletes and the public at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics as a result of the outbreak of the Zika virus, the Games were not delayed and were held in Brazil.
At the time, the IOC did not plan any defer and alternately was in touch with WHO to follow up with the situation in Brazil. So then, the IOC commented: “We are working with our partners in Rio on measures to deal with the pools of stagnant water around the Olympic venues, where the mosquitoes breed, to minimize the risk of visitors coming into contact with them.”
The Australian sports community reacted differently back then and the Australian Olympic Team’s Medical Director for Rio 2016 David Hughes opined that the situation is not an alarming one, as he expressed: “The last couple of people that I have spoken to, who have been to Rio in the past month or two, haven’t seen a mosquito,” adding that “Given that there is no chance that the Games are going to be shifted to another venue, I believe we can proceed with confidence, knowing that we have appropriate guidelines and preventative measures in place.”
Football Events Delayed:
The novel coronavirus is also dramatically impacting football worldwide, disappointing countless fans and halting tournaments with innumerable followers. The Spanish League “La Liga” and all football in Spain were indefinitely put off. As for the Euro 2020, its events will be held in the summer of 2021, according to the Union of European Football Associations’ decision.
Football in England, as well as the Premier League, were put on hold. Moving to Latin America, the South American Football Confederation moved the Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamerica to at least the 5th of May, and the 2020 Copa America to 2021.