TOKYO — The president of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, and the prime minister of Japan, Abe Shinzo, held a conference call March 24 to discuss the constantly changing environment with regard to COVID-19 and the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
They were joined by Mori Yoshiro, the president of the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee; the Olympic minister, Hashimoto Seiko; the governor of Tokyo, Koike Yuriko; the chair of the IOC Coordination Commission, John Coates; IOC Director General Christophe De Kepper; and IOC Olympic Games Executive Director Christophe Dubi.
Bach and Abe expressed their shared concern about the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, what it is doing to people’s lives and the significant impact it is having on global athletes’ preparations for the Games.
In a very friendly and constructive meeting, the two leaders praised the work of the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee and noted the great progress being made in Japan to fight against COVID-19.
The unprecedented and unpredictable spread of the outbreak has seen the situation in the rest of the world deteriorating. On March 23, 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, the IOC president and the Japanese prime minister 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 leaders 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. Therefore, it was agreed that the Olympic flame will stay in Japan. It was also agreed that the Games will keep the name Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.
In light of this postponement, Tokyo 2020 has decided to postpone the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay scheduled to start on March 26. The Organizing Committee will announce revised dates for the Olympic Torch Relay after the new schedule for the Tokyo 2020 Games has been fixed, and renew its preparations for a vigorous Grand Start event that will bring people together again.
Tokyo 2020 will consider measures to allow torchbearers who were selected to run in the now postponed event to be given priority in the selection process for the new Olympic Torch Relay.