LOS ANGELES – The 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games will be postponed because of the relentless spread of deadly COVID-19, longtime Olympic official Dick Pound said Monday.
Since early March, sports officials across the globe have had to cancel events as the deadly respiratory disease continues to expand its reach to every continent but Antarctica.
“On the basis of the information the IOC (International Olympic Committee) has, postponement has been decided,” Pound told USA Today in a phone interview. “The parameters going forward have not been determined, but the Games are not going to start on July 24, that much I know.”
The games may be postponed until 2021, and the details for that will be worked out in the next four weeks, Pound said.
Australia and Canada have backed out of the games. In a tweet, Canadian Olympic tennis player Vasek Pospisil called the COVID-19 pandemic “bigger than sports.”
Tough decision but the right one 🙌🏼. Athletes can wait. Sporting events can wait. This is bigger than sports. https://t.co/PBLiMowAnt
— Vasek Pospisil (@VasekPospisil) March 23, 2020
Postponing the Olympics comes with financial issues, ranging from venue costs to travel expenses, but Pound hopes the IOC will announce its next steps soon.
“It will come in stages,” he said. “We will postpone this and begin to deal with all the ramifications of moving this, which are immense.”
On Sunday, less than 24 hours before Pound made these comments, IOC President Thomas Bach sent a letter to the athletes and mentioned the difficulties that will come with postponing.
“A number of critical venues needed for the Games could potentially not be available anymore,” Bach wrote. “The situations with millions of nights already booked in hotels is extremely difficult to handle, and the international sports calendar for at least 33 Olympic sports would have to be adapted. These are just a few of many, many more challenges.”
The safety for the athletes is still the number one priority for the IOC, Bach said.
On social media, the IOC faced criticism for not announcing a decision sooner. British TV host Piers Morgan tweeted that the Games should be postponed for this summer.
How can we even be debating the Olympics? Of course it can’t happen this summer. Postpone now & stop athletes risking their health, & that of their support teams, to keep training.
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) March 23, 2020
But Sarah Hirshland, chief executive officer of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, and athletes’ advisory council chair Han Xiao remain hopeful and are trying to find alternatives that keep the athletes safe.
“We remain steadfast in our recommendation that Team USA athletes continue to heed the advice of public health officials and prioritize their health and wellness over all else,” Hirshland and Xiao said in a statement later Sunday. “At the same time, we are eager to continue to explore alternatives to ensure all athletes have a robust and fulfilling Olympic and Paralympic experience, regardless of when that can safely occur. Together, we will find solutions that keep the spirit of the Games alive.”
Some Olympic athletes from Arizona who may have to wait until 2021 to show their talents include:
Archer Brady Ellison of Globe is a two-time Olympian (2012, 2016) and three-time Olympic medalist (two silvers and a bronze).
USA Women’s Basketball includes three Phoenix Mercury players: Brittney Griner, Skylar Diggins-Smith and Diana Taurasi. Taurasi would be seeking her fifth gold; she has won four gold medals in the past four Olympic games dating to 2004.
USA Gymnastics added two first-timers from Arizona to their team: Jade Carey of Phoenix, who won silver on vault at the 2019 World Championships and helped Team USA earn gold for the overall competition. She has deferred to go to Oregon State University until after the Olympics.
MyKayla Skinner of Gilbert, an alternate at the 2016 Olympic games, is still hitting the gym. Skinner attends the University of Utah and has taken prizes in vault and floor exercises at major competitions. She hopes to compete in the Olympics for the first time.
Skateboarding is new to the Olympic games and Jagger Eaton of Mesa and Dashawn Jordan of Chandler hope to represent the U.S. At age 11, Eaton set the Guinness World Record as the youngest X Games competitor in 2013. Jordan is ranked fifth globally in street skate, and both skaters were recently practicing at a local skate park in Chandler.
The Tokyo games would be the first opportunity for University of Arizona’s Dejah Mulipola to compete in the Olympics. In 2019 she became Arizona’s first-team National Fastpitch Coaches Association all-American since 1998, and at the 2019 Japan Cup, she won a gold medal hitting: .333 (2-for-6) with 1 double and 2 RBI.
In soccer, Julie Ertz of Mesa aims to win a gold medal at these Olympic games, avenging the loss to Sweden during the quarterfinals in the 2016 Games.