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IOC bows to inevitable but says Olympics will be a beacon of hope as games are put back to 2021

THE Olympic Games, the greatest sporting show on Earth, has been put back to 2021 with the promise it will be the light at the end of the tunnel when the world emerges from the dark days of the coronavirus pandemic.

The International Olympic Committee, Tokyo 2020 organisers and the Japanese government finally bowed to the inevitable yesterday and confirmed the Olympics and Paralympics, due to be staged in July, August and September, will now be held next summer at the latest.

The decision ends the speculation which has shrouded the Games since the initial Covid-19 outbreak in China at the turn of the year.

Postponement instead of cancellation means cost implications for the IOC and the local organisers will be significant but manageable, as broadcasters and sponsors instead gear up for what they hope will be humanity’s great coming out party in 2021.

IOC president Thomas Bach insisted the decision was made for the sake of ‘protecting lives’, with the potential cost of the move not discussed.

Bach, who had faced mounting criticism from athletes in recent days, explained alarming figures about the spread of the virus had left little choice in the matter.

‘We agreed given these circumstances that the Games must be rescheduled to a later date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021,’ he said. A joint statement from the IOC and Tokyo 2020 added: ‘The leaders agreed the Olympic Games in Tokyo could stand as a beacon of hope to the world during these troubled times and that the Olympic flame could become the light at the end of the tunnel in which the world finds itself at present.

‘Therefore, it was agreed that the Olympic flame will stay in Japan. It was also agreed that the Games will keep the name Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.’

The decision was welcomed by international federations and national Olympic committees across the world, many of whom, the British Olympic Association included, had been prepared to stand down their athletes from training anyway for their own safety had the IOC not acted.

BOA chief executive Andy Anson said Team GB’s preparations had been ‘compromised irreparably’ by social distancing measures in the UK and welcomed the IOC’s announcement.

‘We have incredible sympathy for the organising committee and our colleagues at the IOC, who are working tirelessly to seek a positive outcome to this difficult scenario,’ he said.

‘The Olympic Games is a symbol of hope for us all and we are sure that we will be in Tokyo at the right and appropriate time as the world re-emerges from this dark period.’

■124 — Years of the modern Olympics. This is the first time a Games has been postponed, though three were cancelled during World Wars

They said it: Reaction to the Olympic postponement

‘Everyone deserves the right to fight for their place on the podium and with the situation that the current crop of athletes were facing, it wouldn’t have been fair to host the Olympics this year’ — London 2012 long jump champion Greg Rutherford (pictured top) has no doubt the decision is the right one, although he does ‘think it should be been sanctioned sooner’

‘It is what athletes want and we believe this decision will give all athletes, technical officials and volunteers some respite and certainty in these unprecedented and uncertain times.’ — World Athletics

‘Given the current circumstances this is undoubtedly the right decision [to make]’ — British Swimming CEO Jack Buckner

‘Sport is not the most important thing right now, preserving human life is’ — International Paralympic Committee president Andrew Parsons

‘In this crazy time for the people of the world, the most important thing is to stay safe, before ANY event’ — British sprinter James Ellington

‘As an athlete I don’t know if I would want to compete in it. I do think the Olympics should go ahead but in four years and not next year’ — Former Olympic sprint relay champion Mark Lewis-Francis felt the Games should have been cancelled