The International Olympic Committee (IOC) will wait another four weeks before taking a final decision on postponing the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, the organisation’s president, Thomas Bach, confirmed on Sunday evening.
Despite stern insistence from the Japanese government that the Games will go ahead on 24 July as planned, organisers have reluctantly accepted the need to step up "scenario planning" amid overwhelming criticism from athletes, governing bodies and international federations.
Postponement scenarios involve scaling back the Games or staging it behind closed doors, with the possibility of cancellation equivocally ruled out by an emergency meeting of the executive committee.
“The IOC will, in full coordination and partnership with the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee, the Japanese authorities and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, start detailed discussions to complete its assessment of the rapid development of the worldwide health situation and its impact on the Olympic Games, including the scenario of postponement,” a statement released by the IOC read.
“The IOC is confident that it will have finalised these discussions within the next four weeks, and greatly appreciates the solidarity and partnership of the NOCs and IFs in supporting the athletes and adapting Games planning.”
Although the coronavirus pandemic has brought almost every major sporting event to a standstill, the Japanese government – and until now the IOC – had been belligerent in insisting they were “fully committed” to the £10bn event going ahead.
Yet after United States Track and Field became the most significant governing body to call for a postponement, citing athletes’ inability to train safely due to travel restrictions and isolation measures, the executive committee was left with little option but to begin contingency planning.
In an additional letter penned to the global athlete community, IOC president Thomas Bach 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.”