The biggest sporting event in the world finally has been postponed. On Tuesday, the International Olympic Committee and Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee put out a joint statement announcing that the Summer Games, originally set to begin on July 24, will instead take place in 2021. The move is part of an international effort to limit the spread of COVID-19, a pandemic that has already caused more than 17,000 deaths around the globe.
“The unprecedented and unpredictable spread of the outbreak has seen the situation in the rest of the world deteriorating,” the statement says. “Yesterday, the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said that the COVID-19 pandemic is ‘accelerating.’ There are more than 375,000 cases now recorded worldwide and in nearly every country, and their number is growing by the hour.
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.”
This news comes just days after the IOC released a statement saying that “cancellation of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 would not solve any of the problems or help anybody.” The primary stakeholders involved had long maintained that the event would happen as planned, given the billions of dollars at stake in broadcast deals and the billions that Tokyo has already invested in building the infrastructure to host the event.
But the pressure to push back the Olympics has mounted as the number of COVID-19 cases has grown. On Sunday, the Canadian Olympic Committee announced that it wouldn’t send any athletes to the games if they were not postponed. The Australian Olympic Committee put out a statement that it was planning for the games to be postponed. On Friday, USA Swimming issued a release saying that “the right and responsible thing to do is to prioritize everyone’s health and safety and appropriately recognize the toll this global pandemic is taking.”
The Olympics have previously been canceled in 1944 and 1940 during World War II, and in 1916 during World War I. This marks the first time that the games have been rescheduled during peacetime.