Olympics postponed

UpdateThe Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games have officially been postponed until at least summer 2021 to “safeguard the health of the athletes and everyone involved,” according to the The Tokyo Organising Committee. Our original story continues below.

The 2020 Summer Olympics, which would have taken place in Tokyo in July and August, are almost certainly going to be postponed due to the coronavirus (aka COVID-19). While the Olympics have been canceled in the past because of war, this is the first time they’ve ever been suspended.

One committee member has said an internal decision has already been made to delay the games, likely until 2021, while a spokesman for NBC Sports, who would have broadcasted the games, seems to indicate that they haven’t heard the final word quite yet, but that they’re willing to stand by the decision to suspend the games if that’s what the voting body opts to do.

International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound told USA Today Sports that “On the basis of the information the IOC has, postponement has been decided. The parameters going forward have not been determined, but the Games are not going to start on July 24, that much I know.”

For weeks, the committee has held off on making an official announcement, presumably hoping for the coronavirus to become contained to the point where a postponement wouldn’t be necessary – but that scenario is looking increasingly unlikely. The committee has been adamant about not canceling the Olympics outright, and USA Today says the details about rescheduling should be worked out over the next four weeks.

Major American sports, including the NBA, NHL, and MLB, previously announced that they’re putting their seasons on hold to try to limit the spread of this virus, and it seemed as if it was only a matter of time before the Olympics did the same. Clearly this was the right move, as this tweet from artist Daniel Danger laid out yesterday:

Preventing the further loss of life due to the spread of the virus is the responsible move, and while it’s depressing that we won’t be able to watch the world’s best athletes compete, I’m thankful the decision has evidently been made. But make no mistake: this is not without huge economic consequences. There is over a billion dollars worth of advertising and licensing hanging in the balance. Peacock, the upcoming streaming service from NBCUniversal, was set to launch with the Olympics as a key part of its programming; without that hook to lure people in, will as many people sign up as might have otherwise?

An NBCSports spokesperson told THR: “These are extraordinary and unprecedented times, and we fully support the IOC’s decision to step up its scenario-planning for the Tokyo Olympics. We are prepared to stand behind any decision made by the IOC, the Japanese government, and the world health officials with whom they are working regarding the Tokyo Olympics.” And earlier today, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe admitted that postponement was likely. So while technically no official announcement has been made yet, the outcome seems inevitable.

My heart especially goes out to the athletes who have been training for practically their entire lives to be able to represent their countries in the Olympics, only to have the event be postponed and their future as Olympic athletes potentially called into question, depending on scheduling and exactly how long the postponement lasts. We’ll update this post with more information as we get it.

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