US Olympic committee calls for Tokyo 2020 to be postponed over coronavirus fears as Japan mulls 1-year delay

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The US Olympic and Paralympic Committee has urged for a delay to the 2020 games set for Tokyo, Japan this summer, arguing that the coronavirus pandemic presents too many risks and disruptions.

“We regret that there is no outcome that can solve all the concerns we face,” the committee said in a statement on Monday, adding that even if health concerns over the virus could be addressed by summertime, “the enormous disruptions to the training environment, doping controls and qualification process can’t be overcome in a satisfactory manner.”

To that end, it’s more clear than ever that the path toward postponement is the most promising, and we encourage the IOC to take all needed steps to ensure the Games can be conducted under safe and fair conditions for all competitors.

Consisting of some 600 athletes, the American Olympic team was set to bring a significant number of competitors to Japan for the 2020 games, having made up the largest delegation during the 2016 games in Rio.

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The call for a delay comes on the heels of reports that the Japanese government is in talks with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and considering pushing the games back by one year, according to Japan’s Sankei newspaper.

Though Tokyo has previously insisted the 2020 games would go ahead and has yet to announce a new date, veteran IOC member Dick Pound – the committee’s longest serving member – told USA Today that the decision to postpone the event had already been made, stating “The parameters going forward have not been determined, but the games are not going to start on July 24, that much I know.”

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Soon after Canada and Australia announced they would not be sending delegations to the Tokyo games due to concerns about the coronavirus outbreak, Japan’s Olympics chief Yoshiro Mori gave the first official sign the event may not take place along its original schedule, telling reporters “I’m not so foolish as to insist that the Olympics go ahead as initially planned.”

While Mori said the Japanese Organizing Committee wished to press ahead with the games this year – planned to run between July 24 and August 9 – he noted that the government was now discussing its options with the IOC.

Japanese Olympics Minister Seiko Hashimoto, meanwhile, told reporters on Tuesday that the 2020 games could not be held in their “complete form” so long as Covid-19 posed a health threat to the world, adding “So, it’s first and foremost for us to join forces and respond firmly for putting an end to the coronavirus.” She stopped short of explicitly confirming that the event had been delayed, however.

Finding a new date for the games – in which Japan has already invested some $12 billion – could prove difficult, with 2021’s summer sporting calendar already congested, while 2022 will see both the Winter Olympics in Beijing and the FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

The coronavirus has plagued worldwide sporting events since the outbreak burgeoned into a global pandemic, seeing matches postponed or outright cancelled, and forcing some leagues across a number of sports to halt their seasons altogether.

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