Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the International Olympic Committee say they have agreed to delay the Tokyo Olympics for one year because of the spread of the coronavirus around the world.
Abe spoke with the International Olympic Committee’s president, Thomas Bach, on Tuesday as questions have dogged the organizing body about whether it should cancel or delay the Games, which were set to begin on July 24, as the number of cases of coronavirus continue to rise around the world.
Abe and Bach issued a joint statement afterwards, saying that “in the present circumstances,” they had decided the Games need to be postponed “to a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021.”
The move is an attempt “to safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games and the international community,” the statement said.
In the meantime, the Olympic flame will stay in Japan and the Games will still use the name “Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.”
“The leaders agreed that the Olympic Games in Tokyo could stand as a beacon of hope to the world during these troubled times and that the Olympic flame could become the light at the end of the tunnel in which the world finds itself at present.”
LISTEN: This isn’t the first time the Tokyo Olympics has been rocked by world events:
There are currently 392,331 global confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, worldwide.
A total of 17,156 people have died as a result.
In Canada, there are 1,646 confirmed cases and 24 deaths so far.
Public health officials and leaders around the world are grappling to contain the spread of the coronavirus and many jurisdictions have ordered or mandated varying degrees of social distancing.
That means staying at least two metres away from other people and staying at home except for essential activities like getting food supplies or medicines.
Those who are in isolation or quarantine are being ordered to not leave their homes at all for 14 days.
And while mass gathering events around the globe including concerts, sporting competitions and international gatherings have all been cancelled in recent weeks, Olympic organizers had initially shown little indication they were willing to postpone the Games themselves.
The Canadian Olympic Committee on Sunday though became the first to say it would not send Canadian athletes to those Games unless they were postponed for at least a year because of the potential for the coronavirus to spread.