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2020 Tokyo Olympics postponed, IOC tells USA Today

(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

The International Olympic Committee has opted to postpone the 2020 Tokyo Olympics amid mounting criticism of its handling of the coronavirus crisis, International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound told USA Today on Monday.

He said the committee will likely aim for the games to take place in 2021.

“On the basis of the information the IOC has, postponement has been decided,” Pound told USA Today in a phone interview. “The parameters going forward have not been determined, but the Games are not going to start on July 24, that much I know.”

Pound added that the ramifications of the decision to postpone the games are “immense.”

The decision comes after the Olympic committee took criticism from various organizations and nations for its indecision and push-back regarding a postponement.

Canada said Sunday it would not send a team to the games this year. The leader of track and field, the biggest sport at the games, also called for a delay.

The IOC is planning meetings with Japanese public authorities, global sports officials, broadcasters and sponsors that will deal with scenario planning for the Olympics, which prior to Monday were scheduled to start July 24. Canceling the games altogether was not under consideration as of Sunday afternoon.

IOC President Thomas Bach sent a letter to athletes explaining the decision and why it might take so long, while also acknowledging the extended timeline might not be popular.

“I know that this unprecedented situation leaves many of your questions open,” he wrote. “I also know that this rational approach may not be in line with the emotions many of you have to go through.”

Then, late Sunday, the Canadian Olympic Committee announced it won’t send athletes to Tokyo unless the games are postponed by a year, becoming the first country to threaten such a move. The committee said in a statement that it was unsafe for athletes to continue training.

“In fact, it runs counter to the public health advice which we urge all Canadians to follow,” the committee said.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also urged the IOC to make a quick decision, adding that a postponement would be unavoidable if the games cannot be held in a complete way.

The IOC said previously that the scenarios under consideration “relate to modifying existing operational plans for the Games to go ahead on July 24, 2020, and also for changes to the start date of the Games.”

The change in strategy followed Bach’s conference call with executive board members.

Bach had consistently said organizers were fully committed to opening the games on July 24 — despite athlete training, qualifying events and games preparations being disrupted more and more by the virus outbreak causing the COVID-19 disease.

Criticism of the stance grew in recent days from Olympic gold medalists and by an IOC member last Tuesday, before Bach finally acknowledged an alternative plan was possible.

National Olympic committees in Brazil and Slovenia later called for a postponement to 2021. Norway’s Olympic body said it did not want athletes going to Tokyo until the global health crisis is under control.

The United States governing bodies of swimming and track — two of the three top-tier Summer Games sports — had called on their national Olympic officials to push for a postponement.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.