TOKYO, Japan — The IOC will take four weeks to weigh options for the Tokyo Games amid mounting calls from athletes and Olympic officials for a postponement due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The time will be used to plan different scenarios for the July 24-Aug. 9 games, the International Olympic Committee said Sunday.
“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,” the IOC said.
Though canceling the Tokyo Olympics is not an option, a delay until later this year or in 2021 is possible.
The change in strategy followed IOC president Thomas Bach leading a telephone conference call with executive board members.
Bach has consistently said organizers are fully committed to holding the games from July 24-Aug. 9 — despite athlete training, qualifying events and games preparations being disrupted more and more by the virus outbreak spreading globally.
Criticism of the stance grew in recent days — from athletes and by a first IOC member last Tuesday — and Bach finally acknowledged an alternative plan was possible.
“Of course we are considering different scenarios,” Bach told the New York Times in an interview late Thursday.
Late Sunday afternoon, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee and Athletes’ Advisory Council issued a joint statement in response to the IOC:
“The progress reflected in today’s IOC update to the global athlete community is an important step in providing clarity, but our athlete community continues to face enormous ambiguity surrounding the 2020 Games in Tokyo. Having spent countless hours communicating with IOC leadership, our peers around the world, our NGBs and the athletes we serve, we know the difficult obstacles ahead and we are all appreciative that the IOC has heard our concerns and needs, and is working to address them as quickly as possible.
Every day counts. We remain steadfast in our recommendation that Team USA athletes continue to heed the advice of public health officials and prioritize their health and wellness over all else. At the same time we are eager to continue to explore alternatives to ensure all athletes have a robust and fulfilling Olympic and Paralympic experience, regardless of when that can safely occur. Together we will find solutions that keep the spirit of the Games alive.”