Veteran International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound told USA TODAY Sports on Monday afternoon that the Tokyo 2020 Olympics would be postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Based on the information available to the IOC, a postponement has been decided,” Pound said in a telephone interview. “The parameters for the future have not been determined, but the games will not start on July 24, as far as I know.”
Pound, a Canadian who has been one of the most influential members of the IOC for decades, said the games will likely be moved to 2021, with details to be worked out over the next four weeks. He said he hoped the IOC would announce its next steps soon.
“It will be done in stages,” said Pound, 78, the oldest member of the IOC. “We will postpone this and begin to deal with all the ramifications of this movement, which are immense.”
Neither the IOC nor the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee had announced a decision to postpone Monday afternoon.
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When informed of Pound’s comments and asked for an IOC response, spokesperson Mark Adams said: “It is the right of each IOC member to interpret the decision of the IOC Executive Board which was announced (Sunday) “.
In the announcement on Sunday, IOC President Thomas Bach said that postponing the Tokyo Games would be a possibility.
In a letter to the athletic community, he wrote that the IOC would begin exploring other ways to organize the games, including postponement, and planned to make a decision in the next four weeks. He said the IOC had ruled out canceling the games, a position that was reiterated on Monday by key Japanese officials – including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Representatives of the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee did not immediately respond to an email from USA TODAY Sports requesting a response to Pound’s comments.
The Olympics would be the last – and by far the most important – sporting event to date to be the victim of the coronavirus, which was first identified in Wuhan, China, in December. Also known as COVID-19, the disease quickly spread throughout China and the world over the next few months, infecting hundreds of thousands of people and causing major disruptions to daily life in many. country.
The spread of the coronavirus also interrupted Olympic qualification procedures and severely affected training programs, prompting athletes and sporting officials around the world to request the postponement of the Games.
“I would have real moral objections if the situation was the same as it is today in competition,” swimmer and five-time Olympic gold medalist Nathan Adrian told USA TODAY Sports on Friday.
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Pressure increased over the weekend as World Athletics, the international federation that oversees athletics, publicly called for the Games to be postponed. The Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Committees then moved things forward on Sunday evening by announcing that they will not send a delegation of athletes to the Tokyo Games unless they are postponed.
Within 12 hours, the Australian Olympic Committee issued a similar but more ambiguous statement, explaining that its board of directors had agreed that “an Australian team could not be assembled under changing circumstances at home and abroad. ‘foreign”. And the German Olympic Committee joined its counterparts in Brazil and Norway, among other countries, to publicly urge the IOC to postpone the Games.
The decision to postpone, when finalized and announced by the IOC, will mark an important step. It would be the first time that the Olympic Games have been suspended, although the games were canceled in wartime.
The 1916 Summer Games were canceled due to the First World War, as were the 1940 and 1944 Summer and Winter Games because of the Second World War. The boycotts also caused serious complications for the 1976, 1980 and 1984 games. But in each case, the event went as planned.
“I have had so many calls with athletes who were crying while trying to train for their ultimate dream, but who did not want to endanger their health,” wrote American hurdler Lolo Jones on Twitter after comments from Pound. “It was the right thing to do. Let the world heal.”