Pandemic forces postponement of Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games

By David Owen

March 24 – The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has finally bowed to the inevitable and postponed the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

In a joint statement, IOC president Thomas Bach and Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe said they had 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”.

It was agreed that, notwithstanding the postponement, the event would continue to be known as Tokyo 2020. The move follows pressure from athletes and national and international sports bodies.

The wording appears to leave open the possibility of a scheduling clash with the end of the 2020-21 European club season and/or Euro 2020 and the Copa América, which were recently pushed back by a year. This is likely to be resisted by potentially affected parties in the football and media industries, however.

The Olympic men’s tournament is an under-23 competition, but with three over-age players permitted. There had been recent speculation, for example, over whether Liverpool star Mo Salah would take a place in the Egyptian squad.

Football is important to the Summer Games, as it has traditionally accounted for a high proportion of overall ticket sales. In contrast to many sports federations, however, the event accounts for only a tiny proportion of FIFA’s quadrennial revenues. FIFA president, Gianni Infantino was recently elected an IOC member.

Qualification is nearly complete. Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, France, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Romania, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea and Spain have booked places in the 16-team men’s competition.

Contestants in the smaller, 12-team, women’s tournament are set to include Australia, Brazil, Canada, Great Britain, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, the United States and Zambia.

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