Coronavirus outbreak in Africa prompted decision to postpone Olympics, IOC says

The Olympic rings are seen in front of Tokyo’s iconic Rainbow Bridge and Tokyo Tower at Odaiba Marine Park on January 20, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan.

Clive Rose | Getty Images

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach said Wednesday that a surge in coronavirus cases in Africa had prompted the decision to postpone the world’s biggest sporting event.

Bach and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced Tuesday that the Olympic Games, which was due to start in Tokyo on July 24, would be postponed until no later than the summer of 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

By the beginning of Wednesday’s press conference, more than 424,000 cases of the coronavirus had been confirmed worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University, resulting in more than 18,900 deaths and triggering nationwide lockdowns on an unprecedented scale.

The decision came after mounting pressure from major sporting nations including the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The IOC and Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee said in a joint statement Tuesday that the move was to “safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games and the international community.”

Japan has spent more than $12 billion on the event, while hundreds of sponsors and broadcasters are poised to take a big hit from the first postponement of the Games in its 124-year history. The event has been canceled three times: in 1916, during World War I, and in 1940 and 1944 during World War II.

This is a breaking news story and will be updated shortly. 

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