The Summer Olympics in Tokyo will be postponed by a year after an agreement was reached with the International Olympic Committee, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tuesday.
The Games will now take place in the summer of 2021 at the earliest.
“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,” the Olympic Committee said in a statement.
“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 growing coronavirus pandemic, which has taken over the world, put a wrench in plans for the 2020 Olympics, both for athletes now quarantined at home and for the construction of event space in Tokyo, a massive undertaking.
With the IOC hesitating to act, countries had begun taking action themselves as Canada announced Sunday that it was withdrawing from the Games. Australia had also instructed its athletes to begin preparing for 2021, not 2020.
Late Monday, the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee also called on the IOC to postpone, citing response from athletes.
“Our most important conclusion from this broad athlete response is that even if the current significant health concerns could be alleviated by late summer, the enormous disruptions to the training environment, doping controls and qualification process can’t be overcome in a satisfactory manner,” USOPC board chair Susanne Lyons and CEO Sarah Hirshlan said in a statement.
USA Swimming and Track & Field had previously petitioned the USOPC to call for a postponement.
In a letter to U.S. athletes Tuesday, Hirshlan said her “heart breaks for you, your fellow athletes around the world, our friends at Tokyo 2020, the people of Japan, and all who are impacted by this global pandemic and the decision to postpone the Tokyo Games 2020.”
“This summer was supposed to be a culmination of your hard work and life’s dream but taking a step back from competition to care for our communities and each other is the right thing to do,” she wrote. “Your moment will wait until we can gather again safely.”
Abe said Tuesday that IOC President Thomas Bach “agreed 100 percent” to a one-year delay on the Olympics.