The International Olympic Committee has paved the way for the Tokyo Games to be postponed after four weeks have been given to consider their options. Although the IOC has emphatically ruled out the cancellation of the Olympics, it will consider reducing the Games, in addition to postponing them for a few months or, more likely, a year.
Only last week, IOC President Thomas Bach insisted that there was no "Plan B", but has since softened his position amid growing criticism from athletes amid the coronavirus crisis. The IOC will now examine several scenarios over the next month, but postponing until the summer of 2021 is believed to be the most likely option.
In a statement released after its executive board meeting on Sunday, the IOC confirmed that it would look into "modifying the existing operational plans for the Games on July 24, 2020, as well as changes to the start date of the Games".
The statement added: “On the one hand, there are significant improvements in Japan, where people are warmly receiving the Olympic flame. This could strengthen the IOC's confidence in Japanese hosts that the IOC could, with certain security restrictions, organize the Olympic Games in the country, while respecting the principle of safeguarding the health of everyone involved.
“On the other hand, there is a dramatic increase in cases and new outbreaks of Covid-19 in different countries on different continents. This led the executive board to the conclusion that the IOC needs to take the next step in planning the scenario. "
However, the IOC emphasized that any delay at the Tokyo Olympics would not be straightforward. “Several critical locations needed for the Games could no longer be available. Situations with millions of nights booked in hotels are extremely difficult to deal with, and the international sports calendar for at least 33 Olympic sports would have to be adapted. These are just a few of the many, many more challenges. "
Several countries have already called for the Games to be postponed, including the Brazilian Olympic Committee, which cited "the notorious worsening of the Covid-19 pandemic" and "the consequent difficulty for athletes to maintain their best competitive level".
In a letter to Olympic organizations, Bach said that the health of everyone involved in the Games is the most important factor. "Human lives take precedence over everything, including hosting the Games," he said. “The IOC wants to be part of the solution. Therefore, we make it our main principle to protect the health of everyone involved. "
Meanwhile, UK Sport, the British Olympic Association and the British Paralympic Association have announced that they will hold a conference call on Tuesday to discuss whether the Olympics should be postponed.
Various sports, including athletics, swimming and boxing, are in favor of postponing because of the impact that the coronavirus has had on their training regimes – and they are supported by BOA.
In a statement welcoming the IOC announcement, BOA President Sir Hugh Robertson called for quick decision-making on behalf of athletes facing significant uncertainty. "The restrictions currently in place have eliminated the ability of athletes to compete on equal terms and it just doesn't seem appropriate to continue the current course towards the Olympic Games in the current environment."