24 March 2020 – This is arguably the biggest decision sport has seen in peacetime.
For weeks now it has looked inevitable, and many will ask why it has taken until now.
With athletes unable to train safely, and the calendar of Olympic and Paralympic qualification events decimated amid travel restrictions and lockdowns, a postponement or cancellation emerged as the only viable options.
Faced with the unenviable task of reorganising a sprawling mega-event that has already cost at least £10bn in preparations, the IOC and Japan had hoped to buy themselves some time to consider their next step.
But with Olympic committees and athletes increasingly frustrated and confused at what some saw as delaying tactics, the decision was effectively taken out of the organisers’ hands, and just 48 hours after the IOC said it was giving itself four weeks to mull it over, we now know the Games cannot go on as planned.
The ramifications will be significant. It’s a huge blow to Japan, and the country will now have to spend yet more money. Commercial contracts will have to be unpicked and the availability of venues revisited. A crowded sporting calendar will have to be flexible. And the IOC, sports federations, broadcasters, sponsors and a myriad of other related businesses will have to wait an additional year for the financial bonanza that the event generates.
The Games has had to deal with many challenges over the years, from terrorism and boycotts to war and doping. But nothing quite like this.
How athletes reacted:
Alistair Brownlee, double Olympic triathlon champion: “Evidently a very tough decision for the IOC and other stakeholders to make but in my opinion the right one. Both, for the message it sends to people around the world battling with the virus and to give clarity to athletes attempting to prepare.”
Jazmin Sawyers, long jumper: “The right choice. For now we have to stay home to protect ourselves and everyone else. Look after each other, sport will be here when this is over, and we will be ready to give you all the greatest show on earth.”
Callum Skinner, retired cycling team sprint Olympic champion, who fronts competitor-led movement Global Athlete: “The right decision has been made. Tokyo 2021 presents an amazing opportunity to host a full Games celebrating the world (hopefully) entering the “post-pandemic” phase.”
Sophie McKinna, British shot putter: “The right call in unprecedented circumstances. Welcome to #Tokyo2021
Ali Jawad, silver medal-winning powerlifter: “The right call in unprecedented circumstances. Welcome to #Tokyo2021”
Kadeena Cox, cycling and athletics champion: “The right choice. Health before everything. Let’s all stick together through these tough times and when the time is right we can enjoy the Games and its legacy.”
Para-cyclist Lora Fachie: “On a personal level I am devastated. Tokyo 2020 has been my target for the past four years. I’ve lived, slept and breathed it, giving me focus and drive. But it is also without doubt the right decision to have made. Back to the drawing board we go.”
Dan Greaves, discus thrower: “Absolutely the right decision to postpone both the Olympics & Paralympics by a year. Health comes first.
(source: Dan Roan, BBC sports editor)