It took two countries threatening to boycott the 2020 Tokyo Olympics for Japan to finally admit the Games could be postponed.
On Monday, after spending weeks insisting that the Olympics, which are due to begin on July 24, would go ahead in some form, Japan finally admitted that postponing then was now a possibility.
“If it is difficult to hold in a complete way, a decision of postponement would be unavoidable,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe conceded.
The Olympics Games would be the highest-profile and largest sporting event to be postponed by the global pandemic that has already wiped out months of the global sporting calendar.
Abe made the concession after Canada announced Sunday that it would boycott the Games if they went ahead, citing the health of their own athletes and the general public.
Several Canadian athletes welcomed the news. Hayley Wickenheiser, a six-time Canadian Olympian and a member of the International Olympic Committee’s Athletes’ Commission, who had previously slammed the IOC’s lack of decisive action, said she was very proud of Canada’s decision.
Stefan Daniel, a Canadian Paralympic triathlete, congratulated his country on “leading the way.”
On Monday, Australia’s Olympic Team followed suit.
“It's clear the Games can't be held in July,” Australian chef de mission Ian Chesterman said after a meeting Monday. “Our athletes have been magnificent in their positive attitude to training and preparing, but the stress and uncertainty has been extremely challenging for them.”
Australia is telling its athletes to prepare for a Tokyo Olympics in the summer of 2021.
The International Olympic Committee also shifted its tone overnight, announcing a plan to examine the situation over the next few weeks and make a decision that could include the option to postpone.
But the IOC warned that the logistics of postponing the games were not straightforward, with venues potentially unavailable, millions of hotel nights already booked and a packed international sports calendar. "These are just a few of many, many more challenges,” IOC chief Thomas Bach said in a statement Monday.
In the U.S. athletes have also spoken out about their desire to delay the games. Almost three-quarters of the 300 U.S. athletes who took part in a virtual town hall with U.S. Olympic officials this weekend supported delaying the Games.
USA Swimming and USA Track & Field, the two groups set to send most athletes to Tokyo, have also voiced their concerns about the Games going ahead as planned.
The head of World Athletics, Sebastian Coe, has also called for a postponement, saying it was "neither feasible nor desirable" for the Games to be held in July.
“Whilst we all know that different parts of the world are at different stages of the virus, the unanimous view across all our areas is that an Olympic Games in July this year is neither feasible nor desirable,” Coe said in his letter.
Cover: A security guard walks past the Olympic rings near the New National Stadium in Tokyo, Monday, March 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)