By Steve Keating and Leika Kihara
TORONTO / TOKYO, Mar 23 (Reuters) – The International Olympic Committee decided to postpone the Tokyo Games due to the coronavirus pandemic, Dick Pound, a member of the sports entity, said on Monday.
Australia and Canada pulled out hours before the Games, raising pressure against organizers to postpone the event for the first time in its 124-year modern history due to the coronavirus crisis.
“Based on the information the IOC has, the postponement has been decided,” Pound told USA Today. “The Games are not going to start on July 24, I know that.”
The report argued that the Games, which were to last until August 9, would take place in 2021, although it maintained that details would be defined in the coming weeks.
Postponing the sporting event – seems inevitable and would have a multi-million dollar impact on the host country, Japan, which has invested more than $ 12 billion. There are also large sums at stake for sponsors and broadcasters.
However, an increase in concern on the part of athletes – who are trying to continue training despite the closure of gyms, stadiums and swimming pools around the world – seems to be turning the balance, along with the cancellation of other major sporting events. .
More than 337,000 people have been infected with the coronavirus and some 14,600 have died in a pandemic that, according to the World Health Organization, is accelerating.
Dr. Mike Ryan, head of the WHO emergency program, said, “I think a decision on the Games will be made very soon.”
“The decision to postpone them would be purely from the Government of Japan and the International Olympic Committee, but we are obviously in the process of giving them advice,” he added.
The Olympic Games have never been postponed, although they were canceled in 1916, 1940 and 1944, during the World Wars, and there were important boycotts during the Cold War in Moscow 1980 and Los Angeles 1984.
“As soon as the IOC indicated that it is considering other solutions, it has already decided to postpone the Games,” the president of the French Olympic Committee, Denis Masseglia, had said earlier.
Canada and Australia announced that they will not participate in the Games if they are not held in 2021. [nL8N2BG2L3]
Paralympic athletes are considered a special risk by the epidemic, as some have pre-existing health problems. More than 14,600 people have died globally from the coronavirus.
Russia has urged world sports authorities to avoid “panic” over the Games, and US President Donald Trump has expressed confidence in the Japanese government to make the “appropriate” decision.
Nonetheless, many nations lobbied for a swift decision by the IOC, which is led by its powerful president, Thomas Bach, a lawyer and former German fencing Olympic champion.
Monday’s announcements followed increasing pressure from big players such as the United States and United Kingdom athletics federations and various national Olympic committees.
“An Olympics in July this year is neither feasible nor desirable,” said head of world athletics Sebastian Coe. “We owe it to our athletes, to give them respect if we can.”
(Additional report from Reuters offices worldwide; written by Karolos Grohmann and Andrew Cawthorne; edited in Spanish by Carlos Serrano and Javier Leira)