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The International Olympic Committee Is Finally Admitting It May Need To Postpone The 2020 Games

Postponement is now one of a number of scenarios under consideration — but the IOC said it is not canceling the Tokyo Olympics.

Posted on March 22, 2020, at 3:50 p.m. ET


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The International Olympic Committee acknowledged for the first time Sunday that it may need to postpone the summer games, scheduled to bring 15,000 athletes from around the world to Tokyo in July, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The International Olympic Committee's Executive Board announced Sunday that it "will step up its scenario-planning for the Olympic Games" in Tokyo this summer due to the rapidly escalating global crisis surrounding COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. As of Sunday, more than 300,000 cases were reported worldwide, more than 14,000 people had died, and a growing number of governments were grappling with lockdowns and stay-at-home orders.

In a press release, the IOC said it is asking for cooperation from Tokyo's organizing committee, the Japanese government, as well as a list of high-stakes contracts, brand sponsorships, and stakeholders to "start detailed discussions ... including the scenario of postponement."

The committee, however, has completely taken canceling the global event entirely off the table.

"A cancellation of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 would not solve any of the problems or help anybody," the release stated. "Therefore, cancellation is not on the agenda."


Health and safety paramount as IOC Executive Board agrees to step up scenario-planning for the Olympic Games #Tokyo2020 https://t.co/jvLYoW9yfG

While the IOC detailed all of the complicated, unknown circumstances it's working with, the organization didn't state what specific measures to "step up scenario-planning" it will be taking.

When BuzzFeed News reached its media relations team to ask, a representative referred back to its press release.

Its announcement does lay out the different scenarios it's currently working to address.

"On the one hand, there are significant improvements in Japan where the people are warmly welcoming the Olympic flame," it read. "This could strengthen the IOC’s confidence in the Japanese hosts that the IOC could, with certain safety restrictions, organise Olympic Games in the country whilst respecting its principle of safeguarding the health of everyone involved."

Hope has begun lighting our way in Japan. 🔥 #OlympicTorchRelay The flame will now be exhibited in the Tohoku Region, one of the areas most affected by the 2011 earthquake, sharing its message of recovery and the relay concept of #HopeLightsOurWay for #Tokyo2020.

"On the other hand, there is a dramatic increase in cases and new outbreaks of COVID-19 in different countries on different continents," it went on. "This led the EB to the conclusion that the IOC needs to take the next step in its scenario-planning."

The committee said it is confident it will come to a consensus in the next four weeks.

Sunday's announcement comes as groups of athletes have called for postponement of the games to protect health and safety — not just of competitors, but also coaches, staff, and volunteers.

"Our world class swimmers are always willing to race anyone, anytime, and anywhere; however pressing forward amidst the global health crisis this summer is not the answer," USA Swimming said in a letter to the US Olympic Committee.

A letter from USA Track & Field also pointed out the pandemic is affecting athletes' abilities to train. A number of US cities and states have ordered the closure of gyms as part of efforts to slow the spread of the virus.

"As we have learned, our athletes are under tremendous pressure, stress and anxiety, and their mental health and wellness is among our highest priorities," the letter said.


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