The IOC and Japanese organising officials have come to a mutual agreement to postpone the Tokyo 2020 Games to 'a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021' due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The decision comes after weeks of mounting pressure on officials to cancel or postpone the Games from national Olympic committees and athletes across the globe.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe - initially steadfast in his view that the Games would go ahead as planned - announced the decision today (Tuesday). According to The New York Times, Abe had asked IOC President Thomas Bach for a delay to 2021, who "agreed 100 percent" with his request. On Monday, Canada withdrew its athletes from the summer 2020 Games, while Australia followed suit shortly afterwards, undoubtedly precipitating today's resolution. A date is to be confirmed.
Although the decision will upset existing sports schedules in 2021, a delay will be a relief for selected athletes and hopefuls, who have been in a state of limbo in recent weeks.
Team GB's Shauna Coxsey commented:
'Like everyone in the world right now, I am having to adapt to restrictions, the disappointment of cancellations and a new way of living. It is a challenging time for us all but it is absolutely necessary. Sport has given me so much passion, love, challenge, growth, a career and most importantly a community. Now more than ever, we must think of others. The Olympics is a joyful event that inspires people from all over the World and brings communities together, but at this unprecented time we must keep those communities safe and for this reason it is right to postpone the Games.'
Kyra Condie of Team USA told UKC:
'I understand completely why they hesitated to make this decision, the amount of resources put into the Olympics for this summer was astounding and moving the Games is no small feat. I'm so relieved that they have decided to take this challenge on and reschedule the Games instead of cancelling it, which would have been devastating. I feel lucky to already be qualified, which takes away a lot of uncertainty that many other athletes are feeling. Obviously our global health is the most important thing right now, and I'm glad athletes are now able to relax and stay socially distant without stressing about having the Games in 4 months.'
In a UKC article on training for the Olympics during COVID-19, German athlete Jan Hojer commented:
'The first priority should be everyone's safety. Whether that means a postponement or even cancellation of the Games, and how much that would cost anyone, shouldn't really matter.
'As an athlete, of course I hope I get a chance to compete at the Olympics at some point, but right now there's a more important problem to be solved.'
Jessy Pilz of Austria - who had been taking part in livestreamed training sessions at home with her teammates virtually - told UKC last weekend:
'I would be happy about a postponement because health is more important right now and as the situation is different in every country it wouldn't be fair for the athletes, as some can train properly as normal and others have to stay home for weeks.'
A joint press release from the IOC and Japanese organisers reads:
The unprecedented and unpredictable spread of the outbreak has seen the situation in the rest of the world deteriorating. Yesterday, the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said that the COVID-19 pandemic is "accelerating". There are more than 375,000 cases now recorded worldwide and in nearly every country, and their number is growing by the hour.
In the present circumstances and based on the information provided by the WHO today, the IOC President and the Prime Minister of Japan have concluded that 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.
Bach and Abe 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.'
The decision to postpone also includes the Paralympic Games, and the IOC press release states that 'the Games will keep the name Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.'
30 of the 40 Sport Climbing quota places have been allocated for what will be the event's debut Games. Disruptions to the initial Olympic qualification pathway - as continental championship events dropped off the calendar and await rescheduling - have been addressed by the IFSC. President Marco Scolaris commented in a press release:
'After the postponement of a number of competitions, the IFSC set its priority on the rescheduling of the four remaining continental championships before June 30. The IFSC also set a deadline on May 15 for the confirmation that each competition can be held. If any of the four championships could not be held, the updated Qualification System ensures that the Continental quota places will be awarded according to the ranking of the 2019 IFSC Climbing World Championships.' The IFSC European Championships in Moscow, which ordinarily would have been taking place this week, have provisionally been rescheduled to 15-22 June.
UKC received an official accreditation to the Games, which we hope will carry over to 2021. In the meantime, stay tuned for some Olympic and competition climbing-themed videos and an athlete profile digital feature.
Read an article about how athletes were dealing with the uncertainty amid COVID-19: