A four-week plan to determine the best course of action for the world’s most prominent competition didn’t even last 48 hours.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has agreed to postpone the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, with realistic expectations placing the games well into 2021, organizers announced on Tuesday. The decision was made after IOC officials met with Shinzo Abe, prime minister of hosting nation Japan—all of whom agreed that the widespread coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has severely compromised athletes’ ability to sufficiently prepare for the summer event.
Nearly 400,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported throughout 200 nations worldwide, with the death toll having eclipsed 17,000 as of Tuesday morning.
An exact time frame has not yet been determined as this goes to publish, although the Olympics will take place “not later than summer 2021” according to IOC officials.
The 2020 Tokyo Olympics were due to take place from July 24 through August 9, but those plans were severely compromised as qualifying competitions were shut down in compliance with Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) mandates. The 32nd Olympiad has not been spared, marking the first time in history that the world games have been postponed. The Summer Olympics for 1916, 1940 and 1944 were all cancelled outright due to World War I (1916) and World War II (1940, 1944).
Tokyo was to have served as one of the hosting cities for the 1940 Summer Olympics, getting its turn in 1964.
Its next turn will now come in 2021.
Prior to the postponement, IOC officials scrambled to avoid such measures. IOC President Thomas Bach called for a four-week window to further evaluate all avenues in hopes of proceeding as planned or even with a slight delay. Cancelling the 2020 Olympics was never an option, although from the call to refrain from announcing a delay of any kind was met with worldwide resistance—including from nation-based Olympic committees as well as several nations threatening to boycott the competition if it were to proceed as scheduled.
Among the concerns noted by the IOC was the lack of assurance that all venues that were to be in use for summer 2020 would be available with such a delay. Tuesday’s meeting with the prime minister and other national officials alleviated those concerns, acknowledging that the health and well-being of all participants ultimately comes first.
Recent estimates from IOC indicate that 4,700 of more than 11,000 Olympic slots remain at large, including 77 in boxing. Boxing qualification tournaments from around the world were forced to shut down due to COVID-19 outbreaks, with USA Boxing announcing on March 17 its plans to review current selection procedures for male and female Olympic boxers.
Meanwhile, all amateur tournaments have been postponed until at least the first week of May.
Despite the potential year-long postponement, event organizers agreed that the games will remain known as the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox