Tokyo Olympics: IOC set deadline for decision on Games taking place amid coronavirus
Cancellation of the Games ruled out by IOC President Thomas Bach in letter to athletes; World Athletic President Lord Sebastian Coe writes to Bach requesting postponement
Last Updated: 23/03/20 6:28am
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has given itself four weeks to decide whether or not to postpone this summer's Olympic Games in Tokyo.
The IOC's Executive Board met on Sunday and decided to see how far the coronavirus spreads before making a final decision. The cancellation of the Games altogether has been ruled out.
With athletes, teams and federations calling for a delay because of the coronavirus pandemic, the IOC says contingency planning for a postponement is underway.
A statement read on Sunday: "To safeguard the health of all involved and to contribute to the containment of Covid-19, the IOC will step up its scenario-planning for the Olympic Games, Tokyo 2020.
"These scenarios relate to modifying existing operational plans for the Games to go ahead on 24 July 2020, and also for changes to the start date of the Games.
"This step will allow better visibility of the rapidly changing development of the health situation around the world and in Japan. "
Ahead of the IOC Executive Board meeting, World Athletics President Lord Sebastian Coe wrote to IOC counterpart Thomas Bach requesting a postponement to the Games, describing its current dates of July 24-August 9 dates as "neither feasible nor desirable" amid the coronavirus pandemic.
"I write to you to request that the Games be moved," Coe said.
"No-one wants to see the Olympic Games postponed but as I have said publicly, we cannot hold the event at all costs, certainly not at the cost of athlete safety, and a decision on the Olympic Games must become very obvious very quickly.
"I believe that time has come and we owe it to our athletes to give them respite where we can."
Bach himself wrote a letter to potential Olympic athletes following the Executive Board meeting, admitting that a postponement is under consideration but stating that an immediate decision would be premature.
Bach wrote: "We are in a dilemma.
"Cancellation of the Olympic Games would destroy the Olympic dream of 11,000 athletes from all 206 National Olympic Committees, from the IOC Refugee Olympic Team, most likely for the Paralympic athletes, and for all the people who are supporting you as coaches, doctors, officials, training partners, friends and family.
So wait... does this mean that athletes face up to another FOUR weeks of finding ways to fit in training - whilst potentially putting ourselves, coaches, support staff and loved ones at risk just to find out they were going to be postponed anyway!!! https://t.co/OTTG6MRt5O— Dina Asher-Smith (@dinaashersmith) March 22, 2020
"Cancellation would not solve any problem and would help nobody. Therefore it is not on our agenda.
"A decision about a postponement today could not determine a new date for the Olympic Games because of the uncertain developments in both directions: an improvement, as we are seeing in a number of countries thanks to the severe measures being taken, or a deteriorating situation in other countries.
"Together with all the stakeholders, we have started detailed discussions today to complete our assessment of the rapid development of the worldwide health situation and its impact on the Olympic Games, including a scenario of postponement.
"We are working very hard, and we are confident that we will have finalised these discussions within the next four weeks.
"I wish, and we all are working for this, that the hope of so many athletes, NOCs and IFs from all five continents have expressed will be fulfilled: that at the end of this dark tunnel we are all going through together, not knowing how long it is, the Olympic flame will be a light at the end of this tunnel."
The British Olympic Association (BOA) is pleased the IOC has begun planning for a possible postponement.
BOA chairman Sir Hugh Robertson said: "We welcome the IOC Executive Board decision to review the options in respect of a postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
"However, we urge rapid decision-making for the sake of athletes who still face significant uncertainty.
"Restrictions now in place have removed the ability of athletes to compete on a level playing field and it simply does not seem appropriate to continue on the present course towards the Olympic Games in the current environment."