Japanese PM, IOC chief agree to postpone 2020 Olympics over coronavirus threat

Tue 24 Mar 2020 13:05 GMT | 17:05 Local Time

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The 2020 Olympic and Paralympics will be postponed for a year due to the coronavirus pandemic after IOC president Thomas Bach today agreed to Japan’s unprecedented suggestion for a delay, The Telegraph reported.

Crisis talks were held over the phone this morning between Bach and the Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, who formally sought what is the first ever postponement in the 124-year history of the competition.

The Olympics have previously only been cancelled completely during periods of World War - in 1916, 1940 and 1944 - but never suspended or postponed.

Abe confirmed that Bach had agreed “100%” to a proposal of postponing the Olympics "for about a year" amid increasing global pressure for a decision following statements over the past two days which had given the IOC and the Tokyo 2020 organising committee another four weeks to make a decision.

That position, however, soon proved untenable amid pressure from athletes, who said that their health would be endangered if they continued to train, and increasing numbers of countries who said that they would withdraw if the games were not postponed.

The United States Olympic Committee had last night joined the British Olympic Association, and the Olympic Committees in Germany, Australia, Brazil and Norway in calling for a postponement.

The BOA are today also due to hold further discussions with individual sports and athlete representatives but, with sportspeople currently unable to train, let alone compete, had been strongly in favour of a postponement.

Tokyo Olympic organisers have previously put the cost of staging the Olympics at $12.6 billion (£10.95 billion) and must now consider a myriad of logistical nightmares associated with a delay, including the availability of key venues and accommodation.

There are also expected to be complicated legal questions in relation to the liability for any postponement and the huge associated commercial and broadcast deals.

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