Today, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Tokyo Organising Committee issued a joint statement officially postponing the 2020 Olympic Games scheduled for July 24 – August 6. As the news remains raw, athletes are beginning to share their thoughts.

Photo of Sunisa Lee by Lloyd Smith

Today, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Tokyo Organising Committee issued a joint statement officially postponing the 2020 Olympic Games scheduled for July 24 – August 6. 

The IOC President, Thomas Bach, and the Prime Minister of Japan, Abe Shinzo were joined by Mori Yoshiro, the President of the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee; the Olympic Minister, Hashimoto Seiko; the Governor of Tokyo, Koike Yuriko; the Chair of the IOC Coordination Commission, John Coates; IOC Director General Christophe De Kepper; and the IOC Olympic Games Executive Director, Christophe Dub on a conference call to discuss the constantly changing environment with regard to the COVID-19 and the Olympic Games.

As a result, the following statement was issued making the postponement of the Games official:  “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. The leaders agreed that the Olympic Games in Tokyo could stand as a beacon of hope to the world during these troubled times and that the Olympic flame could become the light at the end of the tunnel in which the world finds itself at present. Therefore, it was agreed that the Olympic flame will stay in Japan. It was also agreed that the Games will keep the name Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.”

While the news may not have been unexpected, the reality is still very fresh and with many unanswered questions; in particular, in terms of scheduling certainly, but also in terms of the qualification procedures which were already an extremely complicated process. Still, athletes have started to post their thoughts on social media, supported by past Olympians offering encouraging words of wisdom. Their words offer perspective and hope in what has to be an extraordinary time and pivotal moment in their careers.

We are inspired by their positive messages. #bettertogether

Here is a snapshot of their thoughts:

“Upset to say the least that the Olympics will not be happening this year, I agree this is the best decision to be made for everyone that has been affected by the virus. Looking forward to what 2021 has in store for myself and everyone else. Times like this are hard but we will all get through it together, hope everyone is staying safe and healthy! #tokyo2021Sunisa Lee (USA), via Instagram

“The dream remains the same, only the date has changed! My heart was hurt at the initial news of the Olympics being postponed but the health of everyone around the world should remain the priority, and I’m glad it is in this situation! We all need to take this time now to reflect, adapt and overcome! Stay safe out there people” – Joe Fraser (GBR), via Instagram

“It’s not killed the dream, it just changed the timeline. Tokyo 2021, guess you’ve gotta put up with me for another year” – Beckie Downie (GBR), via Twitter

“Eyes set on Tokyo 2021” – Eythora Thorsdittor (NED), via Twitter

“2020, the Olympic year. The highlight of every athlete’s career will not take place this year. Heartbreaking but the absolutely right decision under these circumstances! I wish everyone a lot of health and strength! Let us stick together in this difficult time and care for our loved ones! A big thank you to all the people out there who work for us every day! #trueheroes” – Sarah Voss (GER), via Instagram, translated 

FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championships | Oct2019 | Hanns-Martin-Schleyer-Halle Arena, Stuttgart, Germany | Photo: Ricardo Bufolin / Panamerica Press

“As much as it breaks my heart the Olympic Games have been postponed. I 100% understand it had to be done for our health and safety. Sending all of my love to every single athlete affected by this. We will get through this #roadtotokyo2020” – Jade Carey (USA), via Instagram

“Although I am upset that the olympics will not be happening this year, I agree that this is the best decision in order to keep the athletes and spectators healthy and to prevent the virus from spreading further.” – Morgan Hurd (USA), via Twitter

“Tokyo.2020NE. I’m very relieved with this right decision. It gives us clarity and time, and most important room for priority number 1: our health. My thoughts are with the people who are fighting for their lives, and everyone of us who’s affected by this crisis and do the best they can. We need each other more than ever, we – are all human – we – as a team – together: Let’s keep fighting together, let’s keep sharing love together, in every way we can. For all of us, who want to change the World, the time is now. Be safe and let’s heal this World first. We will bring back and add some colour in 2021” – Lieke Wevers (NED), via Instagram

“Olympics Postponed until 2021… The vision stays the same” – Rhys McClenaghan (IRL), via Instagram

“understanding the IOC decision to postpone the olympics, i’m praying for everyone’s safety as we get through this together <3 #tokyo2021” – Aleah Finnegan (USA), via Instagram

“Olympics 2021, a difficult reality for athletes who have dedicated their entire lives to reaching an Olympic Games, especially their first but just one more year, a tough call but the right one Here’s to the safety of all athletes and all people out there, let’s do this #Tokyo2021” – James Hall (GBR), via Instagram

“Tokyo 2021 For the first time in history, the Olympic Games will be rescheduled and held in an odd year. But we will definitely be part of this story. All athletes – patience, health and good luck in preparing for #tokyo2021” – Oleg Verniaiev (UKR), via Instagram, translated

FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championships | Oct2019 | Hanns-Martin-Schleyer-Halle Arena, Stuttgart, Germany | Photo: Ricardo Bufolin / Panamerica Press

“I’m so sorry about the Olympic Games. I was very excited and now I’m very upset, we are all very upset. But now we have time!  It’s most important to us. It’s always lacking! And now you have it to improve yourself! I understand the athletes who were preparing to perform this summer. It’s very difficult for me too. I hope we’ll play these games ever. I hope you and your loved ones will be healthy! This is the most important thing, take care of yourself. Love you and I’ll do my best gymnastics ever. Let’s go with me.” – Angelina Melnikova (RUS), via Instagram

“The moment should not be one of regret, but of thanks. The decision of the International Olympic Committee, supported by the Brazilian Olympic Committee and many other Committees, was a sensible attitude during the current moment that we are facing (and that we will overcome). The Olympics is a worldwide event, bringing together several nations. For the health of us athletes, fans, travelers and the Japanese population itself, it would be impracticable to get together during these games. Together, day after day, we will fight and win this difficult moment. The world is mobilizing to stop and stop the spread of the virus.Tokyo 2021 is already a reality, we continue training within our means awaiting the long awaited dream. Let’s stay home because the party next year will be beautiful!“We are not going to force the bar!” WASH YOUR HANDS and STAY HOME.” – Arthur Nory (BRA), via Instagram, translated

“…I’m with every single athlete right now that is experiencing frustration and sadness, and just know that it will get better. The Games are not cancelled but postponed to 2021, and that just gives us more of an opportunity to train harder and better than ever, so when 2021 rolls around we’ll be ready. And when our time comes to walk out onto that floor to represent our country we’ll do it with love, pride, and faith. Stay strong stay healthy, and most importantly, don’t forget to wash your hands. Stay safe everyone.” – Shallon Olsen (CAN), via Instagram

“Extremely sad that the Olympics has been postponed, but I know it was the best decision for everyone in the world. This doesn’t change the end goal it just changes the timeline. My heart goes out to all the other athletes affected. We will get through this. #roadtotokyo2021” – Grace McCallum (USA), via Instagram

“No Olympics this year, let’s focus on the future. But the first thing Stay safe! #gobelgym#tokyo2020 #teambelgium#sportersbelevenmeer #staysafe” – Nina Derwael (BEL), via Instagram 

FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championships | Oct2019 | Hanns-Martin-Schleyer-Halle Arena, Stuttgart, Germany | Photo: Ricardo Bufolin / Panamerica Press

“The most important thing right now is health and above all paying attention and staying at home. Waiting for official confirmation by the IOC, everything points to # Tokyo2021 It is time to plan accordingly this year and take advantage to get the best possible #TeamESP” – Nicolau Mir Rosselló (ESP), via Instagram, translated

“Life is a journey full of surprises. The postponement of the 2020 Olympics was an important decision made for the safety of everyone. We can conquer this virus! #staystrong #tokyo2021” – Leanne Wong (USA), via Instagram

“Thinking of the athletes that have worked hard training towards their Olympic dreams with the announcement of postponing the @Olympics. But knowing the mindset of these athletes, they’re prepared to overcome adversity & use this time to train even harder. We are cheering you on!” – Amanda Borden (USA), 1996 Olympic Gold Medalist, via Twitter

“My heart goes out to all the athletes who’s Olympic moment has been pushed to 2021. It was the right decision for your safety and that of the world. I know that many of you have heavy hearts.  It is important to honor that feeling. Now is a time to rest, reflect and reset. Remember, every worthwhile endeavor is paved with opportunities disguised as set backs. The opportunity for you to share your shine will come again.” – Betty Okino (USA), 1992 Bronze Medalist, via Facebook

“While the announcement of postponing the Olympic Games may be difficult to process, it is without a doubt the right thing to do. my heart hurts for all of the athletes and coaches who have been training SO hard — their whole lives for this one moment. so today I send you all my love and strength. take this time to rest and reset, stay safe and healthy. here’s to an extra year to train, an extra year to get even better. that one moment, will come for you soon…” – Nastia Liukin (USA), 2008 Olympic Champion, via Facebook


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