The 2020 Tokyo Games scheduled for July this year will be postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, Richard Pound, member of the International Olympic Committee confirmed.
In an interview to USA Today , Pound said, "On the basis of information the IOC has, postponement has been decided. The parameters going forward have not been determined but the Games are not going to start on July 24, that much I know."
Pound's statements come 24 hours after the IOC held an emergency meeting about the fate of the Summer Games.
Chief Thomas Bach had maintained that cancellation was not an option but the committee was looking into options like a watered down Games or postponement. Bach had set a four-week deadline to make a decision about the Olympics in Tokyo.
Japan PM Shinzo Abe had said in Parliament earlier today that a postponement was increasingly looking inevitable. Pound's statements come as a confirmation of the Premier's fears.
"It will come in stages," Pound said about the details of the announcement. "We will postpone this and begin to deal with the ramifications of moving this, which are immense."
“My interpretation of the IOC's communications is they don't want to cancel, and they don't think they can continue with the July 24 date,” Pound told AFP . “So you're looking at the 'P' word - postponement.
“They're going to explore options with the Japanese of course, and then there all kinds of stakeholders -- international federations, NOCs, athletes.
“And then in four weeks they're going to try and come out with a plan B and make it as specific as they can make it in that time period.”
An IOC spokeperson did not respond directly to the substance of Pound's remarks, saying only in a statement: “It's the right of every IOC member to interpret the decision of the IOC EB (Executive Board) which was announced yesterday.”
In the early hours of March 23, Canada announced its decision to withdraw its athletes from the Summer Olympics and Paralympics due to COVID-19 risks. Australia followed soon after, urging its athletes to prepare for the 2021 Olympics.
Pound, who is Canadian, said the “astonishing” spread of COVID-19 across the globe left the IOC with no other choice.
“This is not something that's going to clear up by July 24,” Pound said.
“And this thing isn't going to go away by September or October. A lot of the biggest countries in the world are just about overwhelmed, and it's just starting to take root in Africa. It's a no-go in my view.”
A one-year postponement to 2021 remained the most likely option, Pound added.
“I think the one-year postponement is the most feasible because it gives you the most time to organise,” he said.
Committees of the USA, France, Germany and many other countries have urged the IOC to consider postponing the games in the wake of the global COVID-19 outbreak.
The novel coronavirus has affected close to 190 countries leaving over 15,000 dead.
(With inputs from AFP)
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