Veteran International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound told USA TODAY Sports on Monday afternoon that the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games are going to be postponed amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“On the basis of the information the IOC has, postponement has been decided,” Pound said in a phone interview. “The parameters going forward have not been determined, but the games are not going to start on July 24, that much I know.”
Pound, a Canadian who has been one of the most influential members of the IOC for decades, said the games will likely be moved to 2021, with the details to be worked out in the next four weeks. He said he expects the IOC to announce its next steps soon.
“It will come in stages,” said Pound, 78, the longest-serving IOC member. “We will postpone this and begin to deal with all the ramifications of moving this, which are immense.”
Neither the IOC nor the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee had announced a decision to postpone as of Monday afternoon.
When informed of Pound’s comments and asked for an IOC response, spokesman Mark Adams said, “It is the right of every IOC member to interpret the decision of the IOC executive board which was announced (Sunday).”
In that announcement Sunday, IOC president Thomas Bach indicated, for the first time, that postponing the Tokyo Games would be a possibility.
In a letter to the athlete community, he wrote that the IOC would begin exploring alternate ways to stage the games, including postponement, and plan to reach a decision within the next four weeks. He emphasized that the IOC has ruled out canceling the games, a stance that was reiterated by key Japanese officials – including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe – on Monday.
Representatives of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee did not immediately reply to an email from USA TODAY Sports seeking a response to Pound’s comments.
The Olympics would be the latest – and, by far, most significant – sporting event to date to fall victim to the coronavirus, which was first identified in Wuhan, China, in December. Also known as COVID-19, the disease rapidly spread throughout China and across the world in subsequent months, infecting hundreds of thousands of people and causing major disruptions to daily life in numerous countries.
The spread of the coronavirus also has interrupted Olympic qualification procedures and severely affected training regimens, prompting athletes and sports governing bodies around the world to call for the games’ postponement.
“I would have real moral objections, if the situation was the same as it was today, to competing,” swimmer and five-time Olympic gold medalist Nathan Adrian told USA TODAY Sports on Friday.
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