The past few months have been challenging for the international sports community as Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) sweeps across the globe. Aside from lockdowns and travel restrictions, we're now facing event cancellation and postponement to limit social gatherings in the time of COVID-19. With the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in Japan, all eyes are also on the popular country as they geared for the widely-anticipated Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics.
In an official joint statement, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach have agreed to postpone the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympic Games to 2021. The decision has been made "to safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games and the international community"
They also said that the name will remain as "Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020" despite being held in 2021, and the Olympic flame will remain in Japan “as a beacon of hope to the world during these troubled times”. The leaders also agreed that "the Olympic flame could become the light at the end of the tunnel in which the world finds itself at present."
The move has been widely speculated following the cancellation and postponement of international sporting events (including Euro 2020, French Open, and Premier League) due to the widespread pandemic. A few days ago, Canada and Australia withdrew their participation from Tokyo 2020, adding pressure to the Olympics postponement.
Credit: Andrew Mager on Flickr
Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics, which was scheduled to be held from 24 July to 9 August 2020, was on its way to becoming Japan's biggest sporting event of the year since the country hosted its last Olympics in 1964. Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games was set to take place from 25 August until 26 September 2020.
The postponement also came as an unexpected twist after thousands of people gathered in Sendai for the arrival of the Olympic Flame on 22 March 2020. Called the 'Flame of Recovery', it was named in remembrance of the earthquake and tsunami that hit the north-eastern region in Japan in 2011 and the reconstruction took nine years to complete.
For Tokyo 2020, the opening and closing ceremonies were set to be held at the National Stadium in Shinjuku, which was redeveloped by Japanese architect Keigo Kuma who drew inspiration from traditional Japanese architecture and nature.
Tens of thousands of athletes from around the world were scheduled to compete in this prestigious sporting event. Tokyo 2020 was set to host 33 different Olympic sports (including athletics, badminton, and basketball) and 22 Paralympic sports (including powerlifting, Taekwondo and wheelchair tennis). This year's Summer Olympics also aimed to introduce 5 new sports such as baseball or softball, karate, skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing.
It's an unfortunate time for our favourite sporting events across the globe, but we remain positive that things will get better in the months to come. We hope to see the return of the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympic Games when the time is right.