The Tokyo Olympic Games have been postponed to 2021 due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, the first such delay in the Games’ 124-year modern history, as the global outbreak of COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on the international sporting calendar.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) made the decision on Tuesday after speaking with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and local organisers, ending weeks of speculation and uncertainty about the Summer Games – initially scheduled to kick off in July.
“The unprecedented and unpredictable spread of the outbreak has seen the situation in the rest of the world deteriorating,” IOC and Tokyo 2020 organisers said in a joint statement.
“The Games … in Tokyo must be rescheduled to a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021, to safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games and the international community,” it added.
Before the official announcement, Abe said IOC President Thomas Bach had agreed to his proposal for a one-year postponement.
“President Bach said he will agree ‘100%,’ and we agreed to hold the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics in the summer of 2021 at the latest,” Abe said, saying holding the games next year would be “proof of a victory by human beings against the coronavirus infections.”
To safeguard the health of the athletes and everyone involved in the Tokyo 2020 Games.
The Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games will now take place no later than summer 2021.
— #Tokyo2020 (@Tokyo2020) March 24, 2020
On Sunday, Bach said a decision on postponing the games would be made in the next four weeks. But pressure grew as national federations, sport governing bodies and athletes spoke out against having the opening ceremony as planned on July 24.
The decision came only a few hours after local organizers said the torch relay would start as planned on Thursday. It was expected to start in northeast Fukushima prefecture, but with no torch, no torchbearers and no public. Those plans also changed.
“For the time being, the flame will be stored and displayed in Fukushima,” organising committee President Yoshiro Mori said.
‘Common sense prevails’
The postponement marks the first break in the four-year cycle for the Summer Olympic Games since the 1940 and 1944 Games were cancelled because of World War II.
The coronavirus pandemic has already forced the postponement and cancellation of dozens of sporting events, including Olympic qualifiers.
As of Tuesday, more than 17,200 people had died from COVID-19 and 396,000 infected in almost 190 countries, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.
Al Jazeera’s sports correspondent Lee Wellings said: “Common sense has prevailed,” but the delay in the announcing the decision caused “some uncertainty and anxiety.”
“This is a time where people need some certainty and there will be a huge sense of relief among athletes, and everybody involved,” he added.
Athletes, national associations and sporting federations from around the world reacted with a mixture of sadness, relief and goodwill to the postponement.
“It is the right decision,” Lani Belcher, a British canoeist and Olympic athlete, told Al Jazeera.
“Now that a formal decision has been made it allows the athletes to be able to go back to the drawing board with their coaches and support staff and really prepare properly for the Olympic Games,” she added.
All in all a very wise decision to postpone the Olympics until 2021. I look forward to come back to Japan to defend my Olympic title next year and look forward to witness a wonderful event. I wish everybody good health in these challenging times. pic.twitter.com/jrhsFEe545
— Eliud Kipchoge – EGH🇰🇪 (@EliudKipchoge) March 24, 2020
In a message to athletes, the US Olympic and Paralympic CEO Sarah Hirshland said: “My heart breaks for you, your fellow athletes around the world, our friends at Tokyo 2020, the people of Japan, and all who are impacted by this global pandemic and the decision to postpone the Tokyo Games 2020.
“This summer was supposed to be a culmination of your hard work and life’s dream, but taking a step back from competition to care for our communities and each other is the right thing to do. Your moment will wait until we can gather again safely.”
On Monday, Canada became the first country to withdraw its team from the Olympic Games.
After the IOC announcement, Canada’s Olympic wrestling champion Erica Wiebe said: “Utter relief. Excitement. Uncertainty. We’re in unprecedented times. We’ll be more ready than ever in 2021 and wearing the maple leaf with more pride than I thought possible.”
Andy Anson, CEO of British Olympic Association (BOA), expressed “profound sadness” at the postponement, but said: “In all consciousness, it is the only decision we can support, in light of the devastating impact COVID-19.”
A message to Tokyo: When the timing is right we will come and celebrate the Games with you.
To our athletes, the nation and the world: Until then, stay safe and look after each other.
— Team GB (@TeamGB) March 24, 2020
Athletics Kenya President Jackson Tuwei said: “It is good, at least it is now clear. When things were not very clear, it was difficult to advise the athletes what to do. Sometimes when you prepare and nothing happens, it is also very demoralising.”
Japan had warned that putting off the Games would put its $12bn investment at risk.
Organisers will now have to figure out how to keep things running for another year while making sure venues are up to date for another 12 months.
Toshiro Muto, the CEO of the organising committee, said he still has not worked out how much the delay will cost or who will pay.
“A lot can happen in one year, so we have to think about what we have to do,” he said. “The decision came upon us all of a sudden.”
In its statement, the IOC said it would keep the same name for next year’s event: “Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.”
In a crowded sporting calendar, which will be making up for this year’s cancellations, World Athletics said it was willing to move its world championships, scheduled for August 6-15, 2021, in Oregon, to clear a path for the Olympic Games.
The exact dates for the month-long Games have yet to be announced.
“It’s unclear whether the Olympics are going to be held in that exact slot of 2020 moved forward a year,” said Al Jazeera’s Wellings.
“There’s also a chance it may be moved forward and be called a cherry blossom Games in spring.”
Woods on Masters: 'My body was ready' – TSN
Tiger Woods felt strong and fit enough to compete for another green jacket. He could sense the adrenaline starting to flow, along with a strange sensation.
He was grumpy.
Instead of flying to Augusta National for the Masters this week, he was home in Florida, where the only competition for a green jacket was a putting contest with his 11-year-old son, Charlie.
“I felt energetic, I felt really alive and wired and kind of irritable, and I didn’t know what was going on,” Woods said in an interview with GolfTV made available Thursday. “And I realized it was Sunday morning. … And my body, subconsciously, I knew I was supposed to be getting ready to leave and start playing the Masters.
“My body was ready, and I didn’t know why I was acting that way,” he said. “It’s crazy.”
The interview recorded Wednesday with Henni Zuel of GolfTV — Woods has an endorsement deal with the Discovery-owned channel — was his first since the final round of the Genesis Invitational in February. Woods chose not to play the next four tournaments because his back was not ready. And then golf was shut down along with other sports by the COVID-19 pandemic.
He has been at home with his two children and girlfriend, riding bikes for exercise, occasionally playing golf at The Medalist Club and having putting contests with Charlie, with the green jacket going to the winner.
That’s another reminder of these times. This will be the longest a Masters champion has been able to keep golf’s most famous piece of clothing at home. Woods is not required to leave it in his locker at Augusta National until he returns to defend. And that won’t be until November at the earliest.
“This is not the way that I would’ve wanted to keep the jacket for a longer period of time,” Woods said. “I wanted to get out there and compete for it and earn it again, like I did in ’02. But it’s not a normal circumstance, it’s not a normal world. It’s a very fluid environment and it’s very different for all of us. Fortunately, we potentially could have a Masters in November and play it then. I guess I’ll be defending then and hopefully that all comes about.”
In the meantime, he started playing for the jacket with Charlie at the start of the year, wanting to take advantage while the jacket was at home.
“I don’t know if I’ll be able to defend, I don’t know if I’ll be able to win again, but let’s just take a moment to have a little fun with it,” Woods said. “Occasionally, it’s gone into his closet. Primarily, it’s stayed in mine. But the fact he’s been able to earn it off me — because there are no wins that are given in this family — it’s been fun to see him tease me about beating me and being able to wear the jacket and have it in his closet where he says it belongs.”
Woods would rather let 95 other players try to take it over 72 holes at Augusta National.
That will have to wait.
The time off has been helpful in one regard. Woods, who won the ZoZo Championship in Japan late last year for his record-tying 82nd victory on the PGA Tour, was off to a slow start this year. He didn’t seriously contend at Torrey Pines and finished last at Riviera. And then he shut it down, his back not feeling quite right as he resumes his career following four surgeries, the last one to fuse his lower spine.
“Night and day,” he said about the difference in how he feels from the last time he played on Feb. 16 in Los Angeles. “I feel a lot better than I did then. I’ve been able to turn a negative into a positive and been able to train a lot and get my body to where I think it should be at.”
He still struggles to think about what he should be doing this week: a flight to Augusta on Sunday to practice and help hand out trophies in the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals; the noise and bustle of practice rounds on Monday and Tuesday, the Masters Club dinner on Tuesday night for only champions, the Par 3 Tournament with his kids as caddies on Wednesday, and then quiet of the eve of the Masters as he tries to build toward the final round of his favourite tournament.
He stuck to one tradition — the Champions Dinner.
Woods tweeted a photo of him having his dinner Tuesday night, wearing the green jacket, with his girlfriend and children and food that he wants on the menu — steak and chicken fajitas, sushi and sashimi, milkshakes. Also on the table were cupcakes.
Whenever he gets around to hosting the real dinner at Augusta National, it probably won’t end the same way.
There was a food fight at home.
“It got a little bit interesting at the end, a little ugly, where icing was flowing across people’s hair and face, and so we had a little bit of fun at the end,” Woods said. “I did take the jacket off. This jacket cannot get any cupcake on it.”
Young, Paul to headline H-O-R-S-E field starting Sunday on TSN – TSN
Chris Paul of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks will headline the field of NBA, WNBA and NBA alumni in a H-O-R-S-E challenge beginning Sunday night on TSN.
Catch it beginning at 7:00 p.m. ET/5:00 p.m. PT on TSN2, TSN.ca, the TSN App and on TSN Direct.
Other members of the field include former WNBA star and Naismith Hall-of-Famer Tamika Catchings, WNBA All-Star Allie Quigley of the Chicago Sky, Zach LaVine of the Chicago Bulls, Mike Conley of the Utah Jazz as well as retired stars Paul Pierce and Chauncey Billups.
ESPN’s Mark Jones will serve as the event’s host.
The challenge will be held in tournament format, with the quarter-final round happening this Sunday and the semifinal and final round taking place the following Thursday.
Sunday’s quarter-finals will see Young take on Billups, Catchings face Conley, LaVine against Pierce, and, finally, Paul match up with Quigley.
State Farm will donate more than $200,000 on behalf of the participants to charities focused on coronavirus relief efforts.
Here is the complete broadcast schedule for the tournament.
Report: Paul, Young headline HORSE field – TSN
The NBA and ESPN’s plan to televise a HORSE competition is nearing completion according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Sources: The NBA and ESPN plan to televise a HORSE competition is nearing completion and among those expected to participate include Chris Paul, Trae Young and Zach LaVine. Competition will also include a couple of WNBA players and recent NBA alumni.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) April 8, 2020
Among those expected to participate are Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Chris Paul, Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young and Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine. Wojnarowski adds the competition will include a couple of WNBA players and recent NBA alumni.
More to come.
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