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Tokyo Olympics
Credit: CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP via Getty Images

The 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo are being postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In recent weeks, various athletes and athletic organizations in the U.S. and abroad had implored the International Olympic Committee to delay this summer's events, which were set to begin July 24, in the wake of the growing spread of the virus. On Tuesday, the decision was made official.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made the announcement Tuesday, according to The New York Times. Abe explained he consulted with the head of IOC, who agreed "100 percent" that the Games should be postponed by one year. The Tokyo Summer Olympics will now take place some time in summer 2021. Japan's Olympic Minister Seiko Hashimoto said the delay won't extend beyond that.

The IOC released a formal statement on the matter following Abe's remarks: "In the present circumstances and based on the information provided by the [World Health Organization] today, the IOC President and the Prime Minister of Japan have concluded that the Games of the XXXII Olympiad 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."

"The leaders agreed that the Olympic Games in Tokyo could stand as a beacon of hope to the world during these troubled times and that the Olympic flame could become the light at the end of the tunnel in which the world finds itself at present," the statement continues. "Therefore, it was agreed that the Olympic flame will stay in Japan. It was also agreed that the Games will keep the name Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020."

The modern-day Olympics have only been canceled three times before: in 1916, 1940, and 1944, all during times of war.

To date, coronavirus, which causes the respiratory illness COVID-19, has infected more than 375,000 people globally and killed more than 15,000.

The move to delay the 2020 Olympics was signaled when Dick Pound, a member of the IOC, told USA Today in an interview published Monday 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."

The parameters he spoke of relate to a letter to athletes shared Sunday in which IOC President Thomas Bach promised "to safeguard the health of everyone involved, and to contribute to containing the virus." He wrote, "I would like to assure you that we will adhere to this in all our decisions concerning the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020." Though, he emphasized at the time, "to postpone the Olympic Games is an extremely complex challenge."

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in a video conference with world leaders on March 16, said that he wanted to hold the Olympics and Paralympics "as proof that the human race will conquer the new coronavirus." But by March 23, signifying how fast attitudes and preparation plans have changed regarding coronavirus, Yasuhiro Yamashita, head of the Japan Olympic Committee, said they must consider postponement.

Ahead of the postponement, the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) and Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC) "made the difficult decision to not send Canadian teams to the Olympic and Paralympic Games in the summer of 2020," according to a statement to Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). "This is not solely about athlete health — it is about public health. With COVID-19 and the associated risks, it is not safe for our athletes, and the health and safety of their families and the broader Canadian community for athletes to continue training towards these Games."

Shortly after, the Australian Olympic Committee did the same thing. "The AOC [Executive Board] unanimously agreed that an Australian team could not be assembled in the changing circumstances at home and abroad,” a statement (via Reuters) read. “The AOC believes our athletes now need to prioritize their own health and of those around them, and to be able to return to the families, in discussion with their national federations.”

Others who had called on the IOC to postpone include U.S.A. Track and Field, U.S.A. Swimming, six-time Olympic hockey player Hayley Wickenheiser, and gymnastics gold medalist Laurie Hernandez.

For the latest information on coronavirus (COVID-19), including how to protect yourself and what to do if you think you are sick, please visit coronavirus.gov.

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