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The 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo will be postponed to 2021.
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) president, Thomas Bach, have agreed to reschedule the Games to next year as the world grapples with the coronavirus pandemic after a meeting on Tuesday, March 24.
"In the present circumstances and based on the information provided by the WHO today, 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," read a joint statement from the IOC and the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee.
Going forward the statement also read that they wish for the world to see Tokyo as "a beacon of hope" and will leave the Olympic flame in the city until the Games commence next year. The official torch was lit without spectators on an air base on March 20.
The rescheduled event will still be referred to as Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.
A day earlier, Abe had previously acknowledged that the Games may have to be delayed due to the pandemic that has now impacted over 380,000 people around the world.
“When it comes to hosting the 2020 Games, I don’t believe the world is in any condition to do so at this time,” Abe said during a parliamentary session on Monday, according to The Japan Times.
The announcement follows the exit of Canada and Australia, who declared over the weekend that they would not be participating in the Games should they go on as scheduled.
The status of the Olympics, which were scheduled to take place from July 24 to Aug. 9, has been in question since the COVID-19 virus broke out in China in the beginning of the year. Factors including training for athletes (as some have not been able to do so since many facilities have closed), logistics in broadcasting, and accommodating fans from all around the world descending upon Tokyo have been of concern leading up to the Games.
While Team USA did not formally request the Olympic Committee to postpone the Games, there has been pressure from individual sports. The heads of USA Swimming and USA Track and Field wrote to the CEO of Team USA, asking for the group to advocate for postponing the event, according to the Associated Press. Brazil, Norway, and Slovenia also requested that the IOC postpone the Games.
Japan currently has over 1,100 cases of coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University's real-time map.