The International Olympic Committee has postponed the 2020 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games, officials announced Tuesday.
The event was scheduled to start July 24 in Tokyo.
Full details have yet to be announced, but Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he and the head of the International Olympic Committee agreed to delay the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo for about a year.
The games, which had been scheduled to end August. 9, will take place “no later than summer 2021,” the IOC said.
The Paralympic Games had been scheduled for August to September 6.
Abe spoke to reporters after a phone call with IOC President Thomas Bach on postponing the Games amid growing concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.
Tokyo had completed preparations when the virus started spreading into a worldwide pandemic. Despite insisting for months the Olympics would go ahead as planned, Abe said this week a delay may be unavoidable if the entire events could not be held.
The agreement comes after rising calls around the world to cancel or postpone the games. The Canadian Olympic Committee and the Canadian Paralympic Committee withdrew the from the 2020 Summer Games over the weekend. Canadian officials also requested the IOC postpone the Olymptics until next year, they said in a statement.
“If the IOC’s decision means it becomes impossible to hold [the Olympics] in a ‘complete form,’ as I have previously said, then a decision may have to be made to postpone them,” Abe told Parliament on Monday, according to the Nikkei Asian Review.
On Monday, March 23, International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound told USA Today that the games would most likely be delayed until 2021.
The postponement comes after weeks of back-and-forth between the IOC and the athletic community.
The 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo were scheduled to begin on July 24, but athletic groups called for them to be postponed in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Even if global travel becomes safe again by July, athletes argued that it’s not currently safe to train at Olympic levels. Athletes in countries affected by coronavirus have limited ability to effectively prepare for a July event, so a July Olympics wouldn’t have a level playing field.
The IOC, meanwhile, maintained a “wait-and-see stance,” saying it would be irresponsible to speculate on what the future might hold, but avowed that it would absolutely not cancel the 2020 Olympics.
Tokyo last hosted the Olympics in 1964. The 1940 Summer Games, originally to be held in the capital of Japan, were cancelled because of World War II.
The Bank of Japan estimated 33 million visitors were set to visit Tokyo in 2020 and “aggregate construction investment associated with the Olympic Games will amount to a total of 10 trillion yen” (about $92 billion).