Olympics

Athletes, sports bodies welcome Tokyo Games delay

KYODO

Athletes and sports organizations around the world have largely welcomed the decision by the Japanese government and International Olympic Committee to postpone the Tokyo Games for around a year in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and IOC President Thomas Bach agreed Tuesday to delay the games, originally scheduled for July 24 to Aug. 9, as the world battles to contain the pneumonia-causing virus.

The announcement came a day after Canada said it would not send a team to the Olympics, with other international organizations also voicing reservations about proceeding with the games in 2020.

Since the birth of the modern Olympics in 1896, the Summer Games have never been postponed before, although they were canceled in 1916, 1940 and 1944 due to war.

While many athletes were understandably disappointed to see the games put on hold, responses online were mostly supportive of the move.

French judoka Teddy Riner, who is aiming for a third straight Olympic gold medal in the over-100-kg division, stressed the importance of beating the pandemic before going ahead with the games.

"See you in 2021, Tokyo. First, we have to win a huge fight," tweeted Riner, who has amassed 10 world championship titles over his career.

Two-time Olympic shot put champion and Rio de Janeiro silver medalist Valerie Adams of New Zealand, who earlier this year qualified for a fifth Olympics, posted an upbeat message on Instagram after learning about the postponement.

"It's official. Tokyo Olympics has been postponed to 2021. Come together everyone. We can do this," wrote Adams, who has joined fellow New Zealand athletes in an online campaign to promote measures aimed at combating the virus.

After initially expressing disappointment, U.S. women's soccer team member Carli Lloyd tweeted, "The wait will be worth it. Team USA will be ready!"

In a Time magazine column, American sprinter Allyson Felix admitted feeling "fear and uncertainty" over the delay, but the 2012 Olympic 200-meter champion encouraged everyone to "hold onto hope."

"I am not sure what the future holds, but my goals have not changed," wrote Felix, who has also won five Olympic gold medals as a member of U.S. relay teams. "I still hope to experience the feeling of standing on that podium in 2021."

The Australian Olympic Committee welcomed the decision after preempting the IOC and Japanese government by telling its athletes Monday to prepare for a one-year postponement.

While acknowledging the pandemic as a "challenging moment in history," AOC CEO Matt Carroll said he was confident the Tokyo organizing committee would deliver an outstanding games in 2021.

"The AOC recognizes that the games' organizers have an enormous task ahead of them, but have no doubt that Japan will put on the greatest games ever, and provide an opportunity for the world to reconnect in a spirit of unity and hope," Carroll said Wednesday.

"Japan is up to the task and they will do a great job."

Swimming's international governing body backed the postponement, though it is likely to force the rescheduling of its 2021 world championships in Fukuoka, currently slated for July 16 to Aug. 1.

FINA said it would "work closely" with organizers of the world championships and the Olympics "in order to determine flexibility around the dates of the competition."

"FINA's main goal is to ensure the success of its showcase event, while considering the importance of athlete well-being and maximizing opportunities for aquatics stars to compete at the highest level," the governing body said in a statement.

World Athletics and local organizers of the 2021 world championships in Oregon have also said they are open to rescheduling their event to accommodate the postponement of the Olympics.

The athletics worlds are scheduled to be held in Eugene, Oregon, from August 6 to 15.

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