The Tokyo Olympics were postponed on Tuesday to 2021, the first such delay in the Games’ 124-year modern history, as the coronavirus crisis wrecked the world’s last sporting showpiece still standing this year.
Though a huge blow to Japan, which has invested $12 billion in the run-up, the decision was a relief to thousands of athletes fretting overtraining with the world heading into lockdown to fight a disease that has killed over 16,500 people.
Pressure had been building on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and its president, Thomas Bach, with some athletes and sporting bodies angry that a seemingly inevitable decision had taken so long.
After a call between Bach and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, both said the July 24-Aug. 9 Games would move to the summer of 2021 at the latest in a hoped-for celebration of triumph over the pandemic.
The Olympic flame, already lit at Olympia in Greece and taken to Japan for a now-cancelled torch relay, would stay in the host nation as a symbol of hope.