BY ED MORAN
PHOTOS BY PETER SPURRIER AND ED MORAN
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The news that the 2020 Olympics was inching toward postponement became reality Tuesday morning.
Following a conference call between Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, during which Abe asked for a postponement of the Games until 2021, the following joint statement confirming that the Olympics have been officially postponed has been posted by the IOC.
A new date has not been set.
“In a very friendly and constructive meeting, the two leaders praised the work of the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee and noted the great progress being made in Japan to fight against COVID-19.
“The unprecedented and unpredictable spread of the outbreak has seen the situation in the rest of the world deteriorating. Yesterday, the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said that the COVID-19 pandemic is “accelerating”. There are more than 375,000 cases now recorded worldwide and in nearly every country, and their number is growing by the hour.
“In the present circumstances and based on the information provided by the WHO today, the IOC President and the Prime Minister of Japan have concluded that the Games of the XXXII Olympiad in Tokyo must be rescheduled to a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021, to safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games and the international community.
“The leaders agreed that 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. “
News that the Games have been postponed had been expected. Since last week individual sports governing associations, including USA Swimming, and USA Track and Field, were calling for the Games to be put off.
That was followed by decisions by Canada and Australia that they would not send teams to Tokyo this summer. Late Monday night the results of a survey of US athletes sent out by the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee, showed that athletes largely favored a postponement and the USOPC added to the call for postponement.
While the news is now official, there are unanswered questions being asked around the world by sports governing officials as well as athletes, some of whom were planning on this being their last run at an Olympic Games.
In Boston, two-time Olympic women’s single sculler and 2016 silver medalist Gevvie Stone was just coming to terms with the end of this summer’s plans, while also trying to decide if she can afford to put in another year of training and hold off her plans to return to her medical residency.
“I think it’s mostly overwhelming right now,” Stone said. “A little part of me could see it coming over the last few days, especially with the announcement of Canada and Australia pulling out Monday.
“We actually had a meeting last night about the fact that it was inevitable that it would be postponed, so I can’t say that today’s announcement was the one blow. It’s been kind of a gradual tearing, and it’s hard.
“I have put a lot on hold to train for this summer and had been feeling fit and fast and excited to race. I was also excited to get back to residency and I was supposed to start August 17th. So a lot is up in the air. Putting it all into perspective, this is really hard,” Stone said.
“But I am lucky it’s not a life or death situation for me, which is what a lot of people in the world are facing right now, and it’s why we are doing this.”
Not long after the official announcement USPOC chief executive officer Sarah Hirshland posted a letter to athletes:
“Despite the feeling of eventuality that so many of us have felt in the lead up to this moment – my heart breaks for you, your fellow athletes around the world, our friends at Tokyo 2020, the people of Japan, and all who are impacted by this global pandemic and the decision to postpone the Tokyo Games 2020,” Hirshland wrote.
“We heard your concerns and we shared them. I thank you for being so forthcoming with your perspectives, and also for allowing us the time to hear from your teammates across all sports before making a recommendation to the IOC.
“With this decision, the work of planning a new version of the Tokyo Games is now officially underway.” Read the full letter here.