Japanese entertainers leave with the Olympic flame during the Flame Arrival Ceremony at Japan Air Self-Defense Force Matsushima Base in Higashimatsushima in Miyagi Prefecture, north of Tokyo. Photo: AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko
Japanese entertainers leave with the Olympic flame during the Flame Arrival Ceremony at Japan Air Self-Defense Force Matsushima Base in Higashimatsushima in Miyagi Prefecture, north of Tokyo. Photo: AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko

Kiwis add voice to calls for Tokyo Games to be postponed

By Leika Kihara and Rory Carroll Time of article published Mar 24, 2020

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TOKYO/LOS ANGELES – New Zealand Olympic organisers are seeking a swift decision to allow teams to reset and prepare for a delayed event.

The Sankei newspaper reported Japan's government is negotiating with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to postpone the Games by up to a year, in what would be a first in the Olympics' 124-year modern history.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe would hold talks over the phone with IOC President Thomas Bach at 1100 GMT on Tuesday, the Japanese government said.

Efforts to contain the Covid-19 pandemic have led to major travel, commercial and social restrictions, which have also disrupted many athletes' preparations for the Games.

Major sporting powers Canada and Australia have already said they will not be sending teams to Tokyo if the Games go ahead as scheduled this year.

New Zealand Olympic organisers also came out in support of a delay.

“We fully support current steps to postpone the Olympic and Paralympic Games. This decision needs to be made quickly to provide the athletes, coaches and support staff with certainty, which will allow them to focus on their wellbeing at this critical time, while resetting and recalibrating for Tokyo.”

A man wearing a Japanese flag-themed hat shows a towel with a Tokyo 2020 Olympics logo printed on while waiting in line to view the Olympic Flame in Fukushima City, Japan, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. Photo: AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

Any delay would face major logistical difficulties given the crowded global sporting calendar and other commercial considerations.

But a groundswell of concern from athletes - already struggling to train as gyms, stadiums and swimming pools close around the world - appeared to be tipping the balance, along with the cancellation of other major sports events.

World Athletics said on Monday they would be willing to move their 2021 world championships scheduled for Aug. 6-15 in Eugene, Oregon to clear a path for a 2021 Olympics.

Japan and the IOC have said calling off the Games entirely is not an option.

IOC member Dick Pound told Reuters a one-year postponement looked like the best solution. This would mean the Games, scheduled for July 24-Aug. 9, are likely to be held in the summer of 2021.

“That's my conclusion (there will be a postponement),” Pound said in a telephone interview.

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An Olympics postponement would be a blow for host country Japan, which has pumped in more than $12 billion of investment, and huge sums are also at stake for sponsors and broadcasters.

A poll showed about 70% of the Japanese think it is appropriate to delay the Olympics, the Sankei said.

The Olympics have never before been delayed, though they were cancelled altogether in 1916, 1940 and 1944 during the two world wars. Major Cold War boycotts also disrupted the Moscow and Los Angeles Games in 1980 and 1984.

Reuters


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