On Tuesday the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games were postponed due to the coronavirus. Photo: Jean-Christophe Bott/Keystone via AP
On Tuesday the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games were postponed due to the coronavirus. Photo: Jean-Christophe Bott/Keystone via AP

Coronavirus and the 2020 Olympics - a timeline

By dpa Time of article published Mar 24, 2020

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BERLIN  On Tuesday the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games were postponed due to the coronavirus.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) first took action in late January after reports began coming in of infections and deaths from a new coronavirus in China's central city of Wuhan.

The following is a timeline of the developments leading to the postponement of the Olympics.

January 24

The IOC says the Asia/Oceania Tokyo 2020 boxing qualifying event will be moved from Wuhan to Amman, Jordan. The Asian Football Confederation earlier moved women's football qualifiers from Wuhan to Nanjing. More qualifying disruption follows in the weeks and months to come as the coronavirus outbreak spreads globally.

January 29

With the virus now spreading outside China to several countries including Japan, an IOC spokesperson says it is in contact with the World Health Organization (WHO) and its own medical experts. "Countermeasures against infectious diseases constitute an important part of Tokyo 2020's plans to host a safe and secure Games."

January 31

Tokyo 2020 Olympics organizers dismiss reports the Games could be endangered by the spread of coronavirus. "We have never discussed cancelling the Games. Tokyo 2020 will continue to collaborate with the IOC and relevant organizations and will review any countermeasures that may be necessary," a statement said.

February 5

Tokyo 2020 Olympics organizers express growing concerns. "I'm very worried that the spread of the infectious disease could throw cold water on the growing momentum towards the Games. I hope it will die down as soon as possible," Tokyo Olympics chief executive Toshiro Muto said, according to broadcaster NHK.

February 13

Tokyo organizers say the outbreak of the coronavirus in China will not affect the schedules of the Olympics. IOC coordination commission chairman John Coates said the coronavirus outbreak was an "unexpected issue" and that Games' authorities would ensure necessary precautions would be taken for all athletes and visitors.

February 21

After discussions with WHO, the IOC believes the Games do not have to be cancelled or relocated.

February 24

The IOC remains confident the Games can take place as planned, despite a growing number of sports events being cancelled around the world. "The preparations for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 continue as planned. Countermeasures against infectious diseases constitute an important part of Tokyo 2020's plans to host a safe and secure Games," the IOC said.

February 25

The IOC's longest-serving member, Dick Pound, says in an interview the coronavirus outbreak could lead to the cancellation of the Olympics, and the IOC has a three-month window to decide the fate of the 2020 Games.

February 27

IOC president Thomas Bach says the IOC is "fully committed" to the Tokyo Olympics going ahead on schedule. Asked on possible alternatives to holding the Olympics as scheduled, he tells Japanese media in a conference call: "I'll not add fuel to the flames of speculation."

March 3

Japan's Olympic Minister Seiko Hashimoto says the Olympics contract allows for the Tokyo Games to be postponed within 2020 due to the coronavirus outbreak. The Games could be delayed as long as it is held within 2020, he says during an upper house budget committee session. The IOC repeats its commitment to the Games and says a joint task force was established in mid-February, involving the IOC, Tokyo 2020 organizers, the host city of Tokyo, the government of Japan and WHO.

March 4

IOC president Thomas Bach says he does not want to be involved in speculation about a cancellation or postponement of the Games. Such a scenario was not discussed in the executive meetings of the IOC in Lausanne, Switzerland, he said. The IOC executive board "expressed its full commitment to the success of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, taking place from July 24 to August 9 2020."

March 6

Tokyo Games organizers scale down an arrival ceremony for the Olympic torch and decide not to send 140 children to Greece for a torch handover ceremony on March 19, a day before it is due to arrive in Japan.

March 12

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike expresses concerns after WHO declares the novel coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic. It "could affect" discussions over the Games and the Paralympics. But she says: "There is no way that the Olympics will be cancelled when considering the feelings of Japanese people and the preparations up to this point that we have done."

- The Olympic flame for the Tokyo Games is lit in Greece in front of a crowd restricted to 100 because of the coronavirus. The IOC says it is confident the Games will be held as planned and remains "absolutely in line with our Japanese hosts in our commitment to delivering safe Olympic Games in July this year."

March 13

Preparations for the Olympics will continue on track, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe tells US President Donald Trump, who suggested the games be postponed.

March 16

John Coates, chairman of the IOC's coordination commission, says the IOC "didn't recognise any dates" that long-serving IOC member Dick Pound suggested would be a deadline for postponing the Games. "It's all proceeding to start on the 24th of July," Australian Olympic chief Coates told the Sydney Morning Herald.

March 17

The IOC says it is "fully committed" to holding the Tokyo Olympics and says there is no need for "drastic decisions" now. It says "any speculation at this moment would be counter-productive." The statement came as the executive board of the IOC began two-day teleconferences with athletes' representatives, national Olympic committees and international federations on the coronavirus crisis.

March 18

The IOC responds to athletes' concerns over lack of training by saying it is "an exceptional situation which requires exceptional solutions." The IOC is "committed to finding a solution with the least negative impact for the athletes, while protecting the integrity of the competition and the athletes' health. No solution will be ideal in this situation, and this is why we are counting on the responsibility and solidarity of the athletes," an IOC spokesperson says.

March 21

IOC president Thomas Bach says cancelling the Games would "destroy the Olympic dream of 11,000 athletes from 206 national Olympic committees and the IOC refugee team. Such a cancellation would be the least fair solution." But a growing number of sports federations, led by the powerful US athletics and swim bodies, want the Games postponed, just as Olympic Committees from countries including Brazil and Norway.

March 22

The IOC says it plans to decide within the next four weeks whether or not to hold the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo as planned. The IOC executive board agrees to look at "modifying existing operational plans for the Games to go ahead on 24 July 2020, and also for changes to the start date of the Games" amid mounting calls for a postponement.

March 23

Canada becomes the first country to warn that it won't send its athletes to the Tokyo Olympics unless they are postponed for a year, while Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expresses doubts the Games will go ahead as scheduled. "If I'm asked whether the Olympics can be held at this moment, I would have to say the world is not in such a condition," Abe tells parliament. World Athletics president Sebastian Coe tells IOC president Thomas Bach in a letter that an Olympics in July 2020 is not "feasible or desirable."

March 24

IOC president Thomas Bach agrees on a postponement of the Tokyo Olympic by up to one year, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says after a telephone conversation between the pair. Minutes later a joint IOC and local organizing committee statement confirms the Games are postponed - for the first time the 124-year history of the modern Olympics.


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