By Abigail Russell
On Tuesday, March 24, the 2020 Summer Olympics to be held in Tokyo were officially postponed. This is the biggest sporting event yet to be affected by the growing global pandemic.
The decision was reached by Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo and the head of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Thomas Bach. The IOC website states, “The Games of the XXXII Olympiad in Tokyo must be rescheduled to a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021, to safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games, and the international community.”
As the now-postponed Olympics can stand as a light at the end of the tunnel in these uncertain times, it was agreed that the Olympic flame will remain in Japan for the year and that the Games will keep the name Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020, despite actually occurring in 2021.
This suspension is starkly unprecedented, explaining why it took the Japanese government and the IOC so long to reach this decision. A post on the IOC website reads, “In 124 years, from their revival by Pierre de Coubertin until this week’s decision to postpone the Olympic Games in Tokyo from 2020 to 2021, the Olympic games had never been postponed.”
This decision, as frustrating as it is to some, seems to have been well-received by most around the world.
French super-heavyweight judo champion Teddy Riner said, “First, we have a more important fight to win,” referring to COVID-19.
Likewise, Hawaii-born karate athlete, Sakura Kokumai, had just officially qualified for Tokyo 2020 this week, after a long two-year qualification period and only days before the Games were suspended. She, however, is remaining positive about the postponement, saying she “can wait another year.”
Even the Paris 2024 committee welcomes the decision to postpone the Tokyo Games. The IOC website reported that “Everyone involved in the organization of the Paris 2024 Games expresses their solidarity with Tokyo 2020.”
On Monday, March 30, not even a week after the games were initially suspended, the IOC announced new dates. The games are now being held July 23, 2021 through Aug. 8, 2021. The Paralympics will follow: Aug. 24 through Sept. 5, 2021.
The IOC has said that the postponement and new dates were based on a set of three criteria. First, to protect the health of the athletes and everyone involved, and to support the containment of the COVID-19 virus. Second, to safeguard the interests of the athletes and of Olympic sport. And third, the global international sports calendar.
Bach released this statement, reflecting the power these Games have to bring hope to dark days: “Humankind currently finds itself in a dark tunnel. These Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 can be a light at the end of this tunnel.”