The Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 has officially been postponed, following talks between Japanese President Shinzo Abe and IOC President Thomas Bach.
The Japanese Premier has officially asked the IOC to move the Games back one year, with the IOC’s Executive Board set to approve the decision.
In a joint statement, the IOC and the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee said: "In a very friendly and constructive meeting, the two leaders praised the work of the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee and noted the great progress being made in Japan to fight against COVID-19.
"The unprecedented and unpredictable spread of the outbreak has seen the situation in the rest of the world deteriorating. Yesterday, the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said that the COVID-19 pandemic is "accelerating". There are more than 375,000 cases now recorded worldwide and in nearly every country, and their number is growing by the hour.
"In the present circumstances and based on the information provided by the WHO 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."
Previously, the IOC had said it would give itself a four-week deadline in order to decide on postponement, and IOC member Dick Pound said the organisation would determine its next steps after taking the decision.
Pound said: "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 24 July, that much I know."
“It will come in stages. We will postpone this and begin to deal with all the ramifications of moving this, which are immense.”
The IOC had been under mounting pressure to postpone the Games, with National Olympic Committees and athletes all calling for the games to take place next year instead.
World Athletics President Sebastian Coe had written to Thomas Bach to urge a postponement, while World Athletics itself said it would stand ready to assist the IOC with an alternative date.
Meanwhile, Hugh Robertson, Chairman, BOA, said before the official postponement announcement that he had expected that Britain’s Team GB would follow Canada and Australia in withdrawing from any Games scheduled in the summer of 2020. The two other Commonwealth countries had already declared they would not be sending athletes to Tokyo in July before the IOC made its announcement.
Robertson said:” If the virus continues as predicted by the government, I don't think there is any way we can send a team.
"First, I don't see any way that the athletes and Team GB could be ready by then. Elite training facilities are perfectly understandably and quite correctly closed around the country, so there is no way they could undertake the preparation they need to get ready for a Games.
"Secondly, there is the appropriateness of holding an Olympic Games at a time like this. We are actually in a process where we are talking to all our sports. We will complete that over the next couple of days.”
A rescheduled date for the Games has not yet been announced.