Olympics Postponed, Henley Cancelled

Latest Covid-19 update

2 minute read
Words Benedict Tufnell
Photography Benedict Tufnell
Published 24.03.20

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games have been postponed until next year because of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic it was announced today. The news comes on the same day that Henley Royal Regatta announced that the 2020 Regatta, due to take place this July, will be cancelled and not held at a later date.

The Tokyo Olympics, due to begin on 24 July, will now take place no later than summer 2021 according to the IOC. “I proposed to postpone for a year and [IOC] president Thomas Bach responded with 100% agreement,” said Shinzo Abe, Japan’s Prime Minister.

However the event will still be called Tokyo 2020 despite taking place in 2021.

In a joint statement, the organisers of Tokyo 2020 and the IOC said: “The unprecedented and unpredictable spread of the outbreak has seen the situation in the rest of the world deteriorating. On Monday, the director general of the World Health Organization, 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 [Tuesday], 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.”

The IOC had given itself a deadline of four weeks to consider delaying the Games but there had been mounting pressure from a host of Olympic committees and athletes demanding a quicker decision.

The Olympics have never been delayed in their 124-year modern history, though they were cancelled altogether in 1916, 1940 and 1944 during World War One and World War Two.

Photo German Armed Forces racing at the 2019 Henley Royal Regatta
Credit Benedict Tufnell

This year’s Henley Royal Regatta was due to take place from July 1 to 5. In a statement released today the regatta said: “With much sadness and regret, the committee of management of Henley Royal Regatta has agreed that the 2020 regatta must be cancelled. We have also ruled out the possibility of staging the regatta at a future date this year. It has weighed heavily on the committee of management that in its 181-year history, the regatta has only previously been cancelled during the world wars. We have taken this decision after much deliberation, and after as thorough an evaluation that we and the regatta staff have been able to conduct since the covid-19 outbreak started to have an impact on normal life.”

It added: “Our highest concerns have been the health and safety of all those involved in the staging and running of the regatta, as well as wider public health and the regatta’s role in society’s efforts to slow the spread of covid-19. We very much hope that the situation in the UK will have improved significantly by July 1. However, given government social distancing measures and banning of non-essential travel currently in force, it will simply not be possible to install the course and build the site, which ordinarily would commence this week.”

“The financial implications of cancellation will be significant indeed, not only for the regatta, but for our contractors and suppliers, as well as for traders, local landowners and the Henley community too. It is now our task to work diligently in the coming weeks to ensure that the regatta, our suppliers and contractors can emerge safe and sound on the other side of this tumultuous period.”

Sir Steve Redgrave, chairman of the committee of management, said: “We appreciate that the cancellation of the regatta will come as a huge disappointment to many involved in the sport of rowing, especially those whose seasons had been planned around Henley, and particularly given that event after event has been cancelled already this year. However, no matter how passionate we are about our sport, we are also mindful that there are now more significant issues at stake than the staging of sporting events. In this context, it is our hope that all concerned will understand our decision.”