With the danger of the COVID-19 pandemic as severe as it has ever been, major sports bodies the world over are showing their support for the postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. Of course, athletes everywhere are disappointed, particularly those who are in the prime of their careers and medal contenders, but almost all are in concurrence that a one-year postponement would be the best course of action at this particular time.
On Tuesday, the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture advised of its support and compliance, citing the decision by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in conjunction with the government of Japan and the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (TOCOG) as not only a wise proactive measure but a sound preventative approach as well. The ministry’s press release stated that the respective authorities work to protect the gems of the global sporting community while preparing for the safest environmental conditions that would lend itself to best performances by the athletes.
All of the relevant national federations in the country are in the process of making the necessary adjustments to their schedules, so that athletes could be in peak position for next year’s Olympics. The Bahamas Olympic Committee (BOC) has already stated its intention to assist with the registration of athletes and support via the Olympic Solidarity Fund. The Games of the 32nd Olympiad are now set for July 23 to August 8, 2021, in the same venue – Tokyo, Japan. The games are still being branded as Tokyo 2020.
“The ministry encourages all of our athletes to keep their spirits high, continue to stay fit, stay focused and stay safe, as, together, we overcome this obstacle before us,” as quoted in the ministry’s press release.
World Athletics President Lord Sebastian Coe cited competition fairness, the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on training and the increased risk of athletes suffering injuries, as the three main reasons why the organization supported a postponement. He said the postponement put an end to the “real anguish” and “uncertainty” being felt by athletes due to the pandemic. They, too, have had to alter their events, canceling the first three Diamond League meets and shifting the 2021 Word Championships to the summer of 2022.
“Athletics will continue to do whatever it can to preserve and create an outdoor season of one-day meetings in 2020, starting and ending later than usual, so athletes, when they are able and it is safe to, will have access to competitions in every region,” as quoted in a World Athletics press release. “This will help them benchmark their performances and adjust their training accordingly for an Olympic Games in 2021. In light of this announcement, we will also expedite our current review of the Olympic qualification system, in cooperation with the IOC, and release any changes to the process as soon as possible, so athletes know where they stand.”
Several Olympic qualifying events were either canceled or postponed and several athletes were unable to train with a number of countries experiencing lockdowns by their respective governments due to the spread of the novel coronavirus.
British heptathlon world champion Katarina Johnson-Thompson, an athlete with Bahamian roots, said it’s heartbreaking but added that the decision was the right one, given the circumstances. American multi-World and 800-meter free Olympic Champion in swimming Katie Ledecky said it certainly was the right call.
Tokyo 2020 President Mori Yoshirō said he is of the belief that the new dates – exactly a year later than originally scheduled – will provide the least disruption to an already-crowded 2021 sporting calendar, while also giving athletes enough time to complete the qualification process.
Over 11,000 athletes from 207 countries took part in the last Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2016. The 2021 Olympic Games promises to be just as grand despite coming a year late.