On Sunday the International Olympic Committee (IOC) issued a statement acknowledging that it is considering whether to postpone or alter the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and set itself a four week deadline to make a decision. The IOC president Thomas Bach wrote in a letter to athletes on Sunday that the IOC has ruled out canceling the Games altogether but is now exploring alternative ways to stage the Tokyo Olympics, including postponement.
Bach stated that the IOC is discussing the matter with key stakeholders. “Together with all the stakeholders, we have started detailed discussions today to complete our assessment of the rapid development of the worldwide health situation and its impact on the Olympic Games, including a scenario of postponement,” Bach wrote in the letter. “We are working very hard, and we are confident that we will have finalized these discussions within the next four weeks.”
Bach’s letter — and a related news release from the IOC — represent a significant shift in the committee’s messaging on the Olympics, which are scheduled to begin July 24 in Tokyo. For months, the IOC and Bach have dismissed the possibility of a postponement. The IOC’s change of stance comes amid intensifying pressure from across the Olympic movement to postpone the Games, most likely to 2021. Addressing the possibility of a total cancellation the statement said “The IOC Executive Board emphasised that a cancellation of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 would not solve any of the problems or help anybody. Therefore, cancellation is not on the agenda.”
On the same day as the statement from the IOC, the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) and Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC), announced that they will not send athletes to Games held in the summer of 2020 regardless. The COC’s statement released Sunday requests a postponement of one year and thanks the IOC for “its assurance that it will not be cancelling the Tokyo 2020 Games.”
The Australian Olympic Committee has also released a statement informing its athletes to prepare for a Games in the summer of 2021.