Tuesday's confirmation of the 2020 Olympics being delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic has left United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) CEO Sarah Hirshland heartbroken for athletes, despite the inevitability of the decision.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) confirmed the postponement to no "later than summer 2021" earlier on Tuesday following discussions between its president Thomas Bach, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Games organisers.

It will be the first time since the Second World War that the Olympics cannot go ahead as scheduled.

COVID-19 has impacted sport at all levels over the past month and for the foreseeable future, with UEFA last week taking the decision to push Euro 2020 back by 12 months to June 2021.

With the Olympics initially due to begin on July 24, it was deemed too close for comfort, and although Hirshland recognises the decision is the right one and not a surprise, she relayed her disappointment for the athletes.

She wrote: "Team USA Athletes.

"Despite the feeling of eventuality that so many of us have felt in the lead up to this moment - my heart breaks for you, your fellow athletes around the world, our friends at Tokyo 2020, the people of Japan, and all who are impacted by this global pandemic and the decision to postpone the Tokyo Games 2020.

"We heard your concerns and we shared them. I thank you for being so forthcoming with your perspectives, and also for allowing us the time to hear from your team-mates across all sports before making a recommendation to the IOC.

"With this decision, the work of planning a new version of the Tokyo Games is now officially underway.

"At the same time, we know from you, it's important that the process of ensuring it is a fair and equitable Games be given equal attention. Working in partnership with athletes, NGBs, International Federations, the IOC and IPC, we'll (re)define standards for selection and anti-doping, and ensure the reimagined Games live up to the original promise of Tokyo 2020.

"This summer was supposed to be a culmination of your hard work and life's dream, but taking a step back from competition to care for our communities and each other is the right thing to do. Your moment will wait until we can gather again safely.

"I wish I had answers to every question out there, but the reality is this decision is unprecedented, and therefore, presents an entirely new process – for you, for the organisers, for the NGBs and for the USOPC. Please know we are committed to working with you in the coming days, weeks, and months to address them together.

"In the meantime, please focus on taking care of yourself and your community. If you need support or have questions, please come to us or your NGB or the Athlete Ombudsman. We are here to help. As a reminder, we have expanded our mental health services available to you during this time.

"The excellence within Team USA is our resilience and how we overcome adversity. I have no doubt we will get through this together as a team, and all be better because of it.

"I sincerely look forward to working with you as we once again plan our path to Tokyo. Wishing you all my very best and go Team USA!"

COVID-19 has been contracted by over 390,000 people since its emergence in the Hubei region of China late last year, with over 17,200 connected deaths.

World Athletics has welcomed the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and will expedite its review of the qualification system for the Games.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Tuesday confirmed the event, which was due to start on July 24, will be put back until next year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

IOC president Thomas Bach last weekend put a four-week timeframe on making a decision over whether the Games would go ahead as scheduled, despite being under huge pressure to announce a postponement.

World Athletics says it was important athletes know where they stand and will notify them of any changes to the qualifying process as soon as possible.

"World Athletics welcomes the decision of the IOC and the Japanese Government to postpone the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games to 2021," the global governing body said in a statement.

"It is what athletes want and we believe this decision will give all athletes, technical officials and volunteers some respite and certainty in these unprecedented and uncertain times.

"Athletics will continue to do whatever we can to preserve and create an outdoor season of one-day meetings in 2020, starting and ending later than usual, so athletes, when they are able and it is safe to, will have access to competitions in every region.

"This will help them benchmark their performances and adjust their training accordingly for an Olympic Games in 2021.

"In light of this announcement, we will also expedite our current review of the Olympic qualification system, in cooperation with the IOC, and release any changes to the process as soon as possible so athletes know where they stand.

"World Athletics stands ready to work with the IOC and all sport on an alternative date for the Olympic Games in 2021 and has already been in discussion with the Organising Committee of the World Athletics Championships Oregon 21 regarding the possibility of moving the dates of this highly popular worldwide event.

"They have reassured us that they will work with all of their partners and stakeholders to ensure that Oregon is able to host the World Athletics Championships on alternative dates, including dates in 2022."

Athletes gave a thumbs-up to the decision to move the Tokyo 2020 Olympics to next year.

British sprinter Dina Asher-Smith, a likely gold medal contender on the track in the 100 metres and 200m, had previously urged the International Olympic Committee to postpone the Games.

She had questioned how athletes were supposed to train, with the world in the midst of a coronavirus pandemic that has caused over 17,000 deaths and brought many countries to a standstill.

The IOC and Japan's local organising committee in the end had little choice but to announce a postponement.

Asher-Smith responded to Tuesday's announcement with a heart and a #Tokyo2021 hashtag. She, like many, may have been surprised to learn it will remain titled Tokyo 2020 when competition takes place in 2021.

Dutch paralympic sprinter Marlou van Rhijn added: "Different year, same goal! #tokyo2021 #staysafe".

Liam Heath, a British sprint canoeist who won gold at Rio 2016, told BBC Radio 5 Live: "I could see it coming from a little way off. To have it confirmed today is a bit of a relief to be quite honest.

"A lot of athletes are having to train from home and invent new ways of training to maintain their fitness and their strength so training has become increasingly difficult.

"There are bigger things playing out now and bigger things that need to be focused on. It's been pretty tough to carry on as normal when there are more pressing issues."

The British Olympic Association chief executive, Andy Anson, said: "It is with profound sadness that we accept the postponement, but in all consciousness it is the only decision we can support, in light of the devastating impact COVID-19 is having on our nation, our communities and our families."

Canadian Adam van Koeverden, who won a gold in kayak at the 2004 Athens Olympics and is now a member of parliament in his homeland, said next year would see the Olympic spirit shine through.

He wrote on Twitter: "The TOKYO OLYMPICS will be held in 2021. The unifying power of sport will bring everyone back together, once hugs, handshakes and high-fives are all okay again."

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics have been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The International Olympic Committee confirmed the move on Tuesday following discussions between its president Thomas Bach, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Games' organisers.

It means that for the first time since the Second World War, the Olympic Games will not go ahead on schedule.

The spread of COVID-19 has halted sport across the globe and it had become apparent that a start date of July 24 for the Olympic Games was too close for comfort.

A statement issued by the IOC and the Tokyo 2020 organising committee read: In the present circumstances and based on the information provided by the WHO [World Health Organisation], 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 statement came shortly after Mr Abe's office tweeted to announce the news.

"After his telephone talks with IOC President Bach, PM Abe spoke to the press and explained that the two have agreed that the Tokyo Olympic Games would not be cancelled, and the games will be held by the summer of 2021," the tweet read.

As a gesture of solidarity, the Olympic flame will stay in Japan and the Games will retain the name Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.

On Sunday, the IOC appeared to attempt to give itself breathing space when announcing it would make a decision in the next four weeks.

However, a growing number of athletes, national governing bodies and sport organisations called for the Games to be put back.

Some athletes expressed great concern that they were effectively being told to carry on with preparations for the Olympics at a time when health concerns have never been greater, and with lockdowns in place in many countries.

World Athletics indicated at the weekend its hope that new dates could be found, and USA Swimming demanded a postponement, saying "pressing ahead this summer... is not the answer".

The decision to postpone appeared inevitable when veteran IOC member Dick Pound told USA Today on Monday that "the Games are not going to start on July 24, that much I know".

The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee consulted hundreds of athletes and said its conclusion was that, regardless of progress in efforts to contain and quash coronavirus, "the enormous disruptions to the training environment, doping controls and qualification process can’t be overcome in a satisfactory manner".

 

International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Dick Pound says the Tokyo Olympics will be postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The IOC on Sunday stated that it is considering putting the Games,  due to start on July 24, back and will make a decision in the next four weeks, but the extravaganza will not be cancelled.

Long-serving IOC Committee member Pound on Monday revealed the event will not go ahead as planned.

He told USA TODAY Sports: "On the basis of the information the IOC has, postponement has been decided.

"The parameters going forward have not been determined, but the Games are not going to start on July 24, that much I know."

Pound added that further details will be revealed in the near future.

"It will come in stages,” the Canadian said. "We will postpone this and begin to deal with all the ramifications of moving this, which are immense."

 

Max Whitlock plans to continue working towards competing in Tokyo this year but admits the prospect of the Olympics being postponed is "gutting".

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced on Sunday they have set a four-week deadline to make a decision on the staging of the 2020 Games, which are due to get under way on July 24.

Both USA Track and Field and USA Swimming have called for a move to 2021 due to the coronavirus outbreak, while Canada have ruled out sending athletes to the Olympic or Paralympic Games if they go ahead as planned.

Despite the uncertainty, British gymnast Whitlock - who won two gold medals in Rio four years ago - will remain on schedule with his training until told otherwise.

"I'm trying to stay positive but it is gutting," Whitlock told the Standard. "I was training hard for the upcoming competitions but we are being told that the Olympics is still going ahead.

"That's a great thing for me; I'm still motivated and it's important to keep that mindset because that’s what keeps me going."

He added: “I'm not even thinking about a situation where the Olympics doesn’t go ahead because as soon as you do that, that’s where motivation will dip.

“I won't go away from that mindset until I'm told differently.

"I think that's where a lot of athletes are struggling, feeling like they need to know now. But these are big decisions that need to be made and we need to be patient."

Many pre-Olympic events have already been cancelled due to COVID-19, forcing Whitlock to make alternative arrangements as he aims to stay sharp.

"It's not just the training that prepares you for an Olympic Games, it’s the competitions that you have," the 27-year-old explained. "I need to prepare as close to that plan as possible.

"I'll be going on social media live with a routine so that I'm put under pressure. People will be watching and I want to do a good job.

"I know it's not me competing in an arena, but it's the closest I can get."

Former Olympic champion Cameron van der Burgh feels the refusal to make a swift call on Tokyo 2020 exposes athletes to "unnecessary risk" amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The International Olympic Committee confirmed on Sunday it was considering postponing the Games but would make a decision in the next four weeks.

Canada will not send athletes to Japan, while a number of sporting bodies - including USA Track and Field - are in favour of delaying the event, with over 340,000 confirmed cases of the virus worldwide and almost 15,000 deaths.

Van der Burgh, who won the 100 metres breaststroke at London 2012, has bemoaned the lack of "clarification", though.

The South African revealed on Twitter he has contracted COVID-19 and is concerned how other athletes could be affected if they continue to prepare for the tournament.

"I have been struggling with COVID-19 for 14 days today," Van der Burgh wrote on Sunday.

"[This is] by far the worst virus I have ever endured despite being a healthy individual with strong lungs (no smoking/sport), living a healthy lifestyle and being young (least at risk demographic).

"Although the most severe symptoms (extreme fever) have eased, I am still struggling with serious fatigue and a residual cough that I can't shake. Any physical activity like walking leaves me exhausted for hours.

"The loss in body conditioning has been immense and [I] can only feel for the athletes that contract COVID-19 as they will suffer a great loss of current conditioning through the last training cycle - infection closer to competition being the worst.

"Athletes will continue to train as there is no clarification [on the] summer Games and thus are exposing themselves to unnecessary risk - and those that do contract [coronavirus] will try [to] rush back to training, most likely enhancing/extending the damage/recovery time.

"Please, look after yourself everyone! Health comes first - COVID-19 is no joke!"

Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) chief executive Matt Carroll believes holding the Games in 2021 remains tough as his nation's athletes prepare for a postponed event.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced on Sunday it had set a four-week deadline to make a decision on the Tokyo Games.

Canada have decided not to send athletes to an Olympics this year, while Australia are preparing for a Games in 2021.

The AOC said last week the Olympics would either go ahead or be cancelled, but Carroll feels a postponement is possible, although tough.

"It remains difficult hence why their decision is they will come back to us within the month," Carroll told a news conference on Monday.

"Moving the world's biggest sporting event, it involves so many people, so many sports, not just athletes, but also the world's media, sponsors, the rest.

"It's not easy to do, it remains challenging, but the IOC decided they have to look at that as well."

There have been more than 339,000 cases of coronavirus worldwide, with more than 14,600 deaths.

Carroll said while athletes wanted to compete, the uncertainty globally meant it was best to look towards 2021.

"The AOC executive met this morning and considered all the parts – both the IOC's decision, the government [travel] measures and most importantly, our athletes," he said.

"The decision is that they unanimously agreed that the Australian Olympic team could not be assembled in the changing circumstances both here and abroad.

"We have to look after not only just our athletes and officials, but also their families, who were feeling concerned for their sons and their daughters.

"With these travel restrictions in place by the government which we respect and understand and we understand they need to keep Australians safe, combined with the decision of the IOC, we've decided to plan towards the hosting of a Games in 2021 in Tokyo.

"I understand that's a situation which the Tokyo government and TOCOG [Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games] will look at with the IOC over the coming month."

The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) is planning for a postponed Olympic Games amid the coronavirus pandemic.

It follows the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) announcement on Sunday that it was considering postponing Tokyo 2020, which is scheduled to start on July 24.

Canada have already opted against sending athletes to the Olympic or Paralympic Games in 2020 due to the COVID-19 crisis and the AOC has told athletes to prepare for a 2021 Games.

"We have athletes based overseas, training at central locations around Australia as teams and managing their own programs. With travel and other restrictions this becomes an untenable situation," AOC chief executive Matt Carroll said on Monday.

"The IOC had adopted the key principles of putting athlete health first and ensuring it acted in their best interests and the interests of sport. This decision reflects those principles. We are now in a position where we can plan with greater certainty.

"I would like to thank AOC Athletes' Commission Chair Steve Hooker for his valuable contribution to discussions today and over the last week, representing the views of our athletes."

Australian team chef de mission for Tokyo Ian Chesterman added: "It's clear the Games can't be held in July. Our athletes have been magnificent in their positive attitude to training and preparing, but the stress and uncertainty has been extremely challenging for them.

"They have also shouldered the burden of concern for their peers around the world. That has been a consistent message to me.

"While there will still be much to work out as a result of this change, the timing will allow athletes from around the world to properly prepare with the hope the coronavirus crisis will be under control.

"We are aware that for many such a postponement will present a range of new issues. But when the world does come together at the Tokyo Olympic Games they can be a true celebration of sport and humanity."

Canada will not send athletes to the Olympic or Paralympic Games in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, they announced on Sunday.

Organisers are under increasing pressure to postpone or cancel the Olympics, which are scheduled to be held in Tokyo starting July 24.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced on Sunday it had set a four-week deadline to make a decision on the 2020 Games.

But Canada said they would not be sending athletes to a 2020 Olympics, calling for the Games to be postponed.

"The Canadian Olympic Committee [COC] and Canadian Paralympic Committee [CPC], backed by their athletes' commissions, national sports organisations and the government of Canada, have made the difficult decision to not send Canadian teams to the Olympic and Paralympic Games in the summer of 2020," a statement read.

"The COC and CPC urgently call on the International Olympic Committee [IOC], and the International Paralympic Committee [IPC] and the World Health Organization [WHO] to postpone the Games for one year and we offer them our full support in helping navigate all the complexities that rescheduling the Games will bring.

"While we recognise the inherent complexities around a postponement, nothing is more important than the health and safety of our athletes and the world community.

"This is not solely about athlete health – it is about public health. With COVID-19 and the associated risks, it is not safe for our athletes, and the health and safety of their families and the broader Canadian community for athletes to continue training towards these Games. In fact, it runs counter to the public health advice which we urge all Canadians to follow.

"The COC and CPC reviewed the letter and news release sent Sunday by the IOC. We are thankful to the IOC for its assurance that it will not be cancelling the Tokyo 2020 Games and appreciative that it understands the importance of accelerating its decision-making regarding a possible postponement.

"We also applaud the IOC for acknowledging that safeguarding the health and wellness of nations and containing the virus must be our paramount concern. We are in the midst of a global health crisis that is far more significant than sport.

"The COC and CPC would like to thank our athletes, partners and the Canadian sport community for their patience and for lending us their voices during these unprecedented times. We remain hopeful that the IOC and IPC will agree with the decision to postpone the Games as a part of our collective responsibility to protect our communities and work to contain the spread of the virus."

The coronavirus has killed more than 14,600 people worldwide, with cases exceeding 337,000.

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe accepted the Tokyo Olympics may have to be postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced on Sunday it was considering postponing the Games, with a decision to be made in the next four weeks.

Abe, who said earlier this month the Olympics – scheduled to start in July – would go ahead, accepted the Games may have to be postponed.

"I want to implement the Olympics and Paralympics completely as proof that the world has overcome the virus, which the international community is now severely affected by," he told parliament on Monday, via NHK World.

"If it is difficult to do so, we will have to think first about athletes and make a decision about whether to postpone the event."

There have been more than 337,000 cases of coronavirus worldwide, with the death toll climbing above 14,600.

 

Glen Mills, former coach of retired sprint king Usain Bolt, would advise the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to push the Tokyo Olympic Games to next year.

So far, the IOC has resisted calls from several high-profile athletes, coaches, and even athletics associations, to postpone the games in light of the current coronavirus pandemic.  In the latest twist, the IOC has flatly rejected the idea of cancellation but is expected to take a decision on whether to postpone the Games, set to start on July 24.

Mills, however, admits that he cannot see the event being staged before next year, following the already massive disruptions to the schedule.

"I can’t see the Olympics going ahead; taking persons from all over the world and bringing them to one central point,” Mills said in a recent interview with Reuters.

"My recommendation would be to postpone the Olympics until next year,” he said.

“This would be unprecedented, but we are in unprecedented time. Move everything up one year and then everything will eventually fall back in place,” he added.

"But I don’t think that the Olympics will take place at the time that is specified (July and August) because the outbreak is worldwide and, in some countries,, it is just starting to accelerate.”

The Olympics has only been canceled on three occasions 1916, 1940 and 1944 in all those cases the scrapping of the Games was due to World wars I and II.

Noted Jamaica track and field coach Stephen Francis expects collegiate athletes to be hardest hit by the current shutdown surrounding the coronavirus pandemic but insists all is not yet lost.

The rapid onslaught of the infectious disease has seen the postponement or cancellation of sporting events around the globe.  In a bid to halt the spread of the virus, many universities in the United States have closed their doors, with the National Collegiate Athletic Association taking the decision to axe its spring athletics season last week.

Further afield, pressure continues to mount on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to postpone the Tokyo Games, with the latest news suggesting a decision would be reached in four weeks’ time.  With the universities serving as a home, training base and source of frequent and healthy competition for athletes who may qualify to take part in the Olympics, Francis believes they will be hardest hit.  The list could include several Jamaicans. 

“The biggest problem I see is the NCs (NCAA) because that is where you have the most breakthroughs, so to speak, and that’s cancelled,” Francis told RJR Sports.

“Those athletes can’t even train because their coaches are gone home and the universities are closed, so most of them are without a coach,” he added.

“But by and large for most of the world much hasn’t changed, people still, for the most part, can do their workouts; they can’t compete but it’s up to the coaches to devise methods for substituting for competition.”

Francis believes, however, that athlete should not worry about missing out on the Olympics Games if it is cancelled, as there would still be opportunities to shine. 

“Every year you have people that make a breakthrough, but I don’t think you need the Olympics to make a breakthrough.  You can make a breakthrough so long as there are meets to be run."

Francis has coached the likes of Olympics and world champion medallists Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Melanie Walker, Brigitte Foster-Hylton and Asafa Powell.

 

 

World Athletics is ready to work with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on a new date for Tokyo 2020 as it welcomes discussions to postpone the Games.

The IOC confirmed on Sunday it was considering pushing back the Olympics amid the coronavirus pandemic and would make a decision in the next four weeks.

However, cancellation of the Tokyo Games is not on the agenda, it said.

The announcement came after USA Track and Field and USA Swimming urged for a postponement of the event.

Following the news, World Athletics revealed it had written to the IOC with feedback from its athletes, and it was keen to look for a new date in the calendar.

"World Athletics welcomes discussions with the IOC to postpone the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and wrote to the IOC earlier today to relay this feedback from its area presidents, council and athletes," a statement read.

"We stand ready to work with the IOC and all sport on an alternative date."

The Games is currently scheduled to start on July 24.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is considering postponing the Tokyo Games and will make a decision in the next four weeks, but says cancellation is not on the agenda.

Pressure has grown on the IOC to confirm the Games, due to start on July 24, will not go ahead as scheduled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The virus has killed 14,457 people worldwide and that figure continues to rise.

IOC president Thomas Bach this week stated that different scenarios for staging the Games are being considered and on Sunday revealed a timeframe for a call to be made.

The IOC outlined that modifying existing operational plans for the Games to go ahead on July 24 and changing the start date are being considered.

It explained that "critical venues" may no longer be available and raised logistical concerns such as hotel bookings and the potential impact on the calendar of "at least 33" Olympic sports.

Full commitment, the IOC added, would be required from all parties when coming up with a plan of action.

Bach has written to the global athlete community to inform them of the organisation's approach.

He wrote: "Human lives take precedence over everything, including the staging of the Games.

"The IOC wants to be part of the solution. Therefore we have made it our leading principle to safeguard the health of everyone involved, and to contribute to containing the virus.

"I wish, and we all are working for this, that the hope so many athletes, NOCs and IFs from all five continents have expressed will be fulfilled: that at the end of this dark tunnel we are all going through together, not knowing how long it is, the Olympic flame will be a light at the end of this tunnel."

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