The 2020 Summer Olympic Games, which were to be held in Tokyo, have been postponed, International Olympic Committee (IOC) Thomas Brach and Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced Tuesday morning. Citing “the unprecedented and unpredictable spread of the [coronavirus] outbreak,” the Games will 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.”
While the Olympics have cancelled three times, all as a result of war (in 1916, 1940 and 1944), this marks the first time in modern Olympic history (since 1896) that the Games have been postponed.
According to the joint statement made by the IOC and Japan Organizing Committee, leaders hope that the Olympic Games in Tokyo could serve “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.” Also of note: Regardless of when the games take place, they will keep the name Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.
There are currently 1,140 confirmed coronavirus cases in Japan but there are nearly 400,000 cases worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University & Medicine. World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Monday, March 23, that “the pandemic is accelerating. It took 67 days from the first reported case to reach the first 100,000 cases, 11 days for the second 100,000 cases and just 4 days for the third 100,000 cases.”
According to Time, an estimated 10,000 athletes had been scheduled to march into Tokyo’s national stadium for the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics, and about 600,000 international visitors were expected to attend the event, which was set to run July 24 through August 9.