Coronavirus: WHO officials say IOC’s decision to delay Olympics was ‘difficult but wise’

A pedestrian wearing mask walking past the Olympic rings in Tokyo, Japan. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced on Tuesday that Japan and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have agreed to postpone the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games by one year.

Du Xiaoyi | Xinhua News Agency | Getty

The International Olympic Committee’s decision to delay the Tokyo Olympic games until 2021 was “difficult but wise” as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread across the globe, World Health Origination officials said Wednesday. 

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press briefing Wednesday that the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed over 16,000 people globally, continues to take its toll, including the IOC’s “difficult but wise” decision to postpone the 2020 Summer Games. 

“I thank Prime Minister Abe and the members of the IOC for making this sacrifice to protect the health of athletes, spectators and officials,” Tedros said at a press briefing.

On Tuesday, the IOC and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe postponed the 2020 Olympics, which were scheduled to begin July 24 in Tokyo, and the Paralympic Games for no later than summer 2021. The decision came after weeks of rising calls to postpone the games due to the COVID-19 outbreak, which has killed over 16,000 people globally. 

Over the weekend, the IOC said in a statement that there were significant improvements in the coronavirus outbreak in Japan and, with certain safety restrictions, the Olympic Games could go on. 

Disclosure: CNBC parent NBCUniversal owns NBC Sports and NBC Olympics. NBC Olympics is the U.S. broadcast rights holder to all Summer and Winter Games through the year 2032.

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