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Postponement is about saving lives, says IOC chief Bach

Video credit: Reuters - Sports
Published on March 24, 2020 - Duration: 05:24s

Postponement is about saving lives, says IOC chief Bach

Thomas Bach says postponement is "to safeguard the health of the athletes and everybody involved in the Olympic Games"

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Postponement is about saving lives, says IOC chief Bach

SHOWS: LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND (MARCH 24, 2020) (IOC HANDOUT - ACCESS ALL) 1.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) IOC PRESIDENT, THOMAS BACH, SAYING: "This telephone call between Prime Minister (Shinzo) Abe and me, we have been discussing the seriousness of the pandemic of the coronavirus and most importantly the devastating effect it has on so many peoples' lives around the entire globe.

We are both very worried about the worldwide development because in the last two days in particular or three days, we have seen the rapidly growing numbers.

We have seen the beginning of an outbreak in particular in Africa, we have seen the beginning of an outbreak also in some islands in Oceania and we have seen the rapidly growing numbers in South America and many other parts of the world.

There the World Health Organization speaks of the acceleration of the spreading of the virus so we were addressing this situation and came to the conclusion that, in order to safeguard the health of the athletes and everybody involved in the Olympic Games, that we have to postpone the Olympics and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 to the year 2021, with the aim to have it there at the latest in summer time 2021." 2.

WHITE FLASH 3.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) IOC PRESIDENT, THOMAS BACH, SAYING: "We are facing an unprecedented challenge again now because this postponement is the first ever postponement of an Olympic Games in Olympic history.

The Olympic Games are the most complex event on this planet.

We have to get together 11,000 athletes from 206 National Olympic Committees and the IOC Refugee Olympic Team, in one place.

Not only for doing sport and showing sporting excellence, but also living together in an Olympic Village, celebrating humanity together." 4.

WHITE FLASH 5.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) IOC PRESIDENT, THOMAS BACH, SAYING: "Yes, there will be Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

So there the athletes will have the chance and the opportunity of their life, to make their Olympic dream come true even in these uncertain times, and their preparations will need the cooperation of everybody.

And also the understanding in particular of the athletes.

They are to come together and address this unprecedented situation together.

If we do so, if we are all standing together and everybody making his or her contribution, then I am really confident that at the end these Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 can be the light at the end of this dark tunnel we are all going through together now.

And we all want to see the Olympic flame at the end of this dark tunnel." 6.

WHITE FLASH 7.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) IOC PRESIDENT, THOMAS BACH, SAYING: "We are showing our commitment to these Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 and to the success of these Games, and also our gratitude to the Japanese people, the organising committee, the government authorities and everybody who have prepared so well these Olympic Games by having decided that the Olympic flame, which arrived in Japan a couple of days ago, will stay in Japan until the Games will finally begin.

And we also agreed that the name will be kept as 'Olympic Games Tokyo 2020', again to show our commitment and the highly symbolic meaning of these Olympic Games who then hopefully can and will be, at the end, a celebration of human kind having overcome this unprecedented challenge of the coronavirus." TOKYO, JAPAN (FILE) (IOC HANDOUT - ACCESS ALL) 8.

TOKYO 2020 MASCOTS AT EVENT 9.

TIMELAPSE VIDEO OF THE BUILDING PROCESS OF THE 2020 OLYMPIC AND PARALYMPIC VILLAGE STORY: The Tokyo Olympics were postponed on Tuesday (March 24) to 2021, the first such delay in the Games' 124-year modern history, as the coronavirus crisis wrecked the world's last sporting showpiece still standing this year.

Though a huge blow to Japan, which has invested $12 billion in the run-up, the move was a relief to thousands of athletes fretting over training as the world headed into lockdown to fight a disease that has claimed more than 16,500 lives.

Pressure had been building on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and its president, Thomas Bach, with some athletes and sporting bodies angry that a seemingly inevitable decision had taken so long.

After a call between Bach and Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, both said the July 24-Aug.

9 Games would move to summer 2021 at the latest in a hoped-for celebration of triumph over the pandemic.

The Olympic flame, already lit at Olympia in Greece and taken to Japan for a now-cancelled torch relay, would stay in the host nation as a symbol of hope.

"We came to the conclusion that, in order to safeguard the health of the athletes and everybody involved in the Olympic Games, we have to postpone the Olympics and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 to the year 2021, with the aim to have it there at the latest in summer time 2021," Bach said.

Though it was the first Olympics' postponement, the Games were cancelled outright three times during the last century's two World Wars.

Cold War boycotts also disrupted the Moscow and Los Angeles Olympics in 1980 and 1984.

Tuesday's decision came 122 days before the planned opening ceremony at Japan's newly built National Stadium, which was to usher in the 16-day event featuring 11,000 athletes from 206 nations and territories.

It is not the first time a Japanese Olympics has run into problems. Both the 1940 Summer and Winter Olympics were to be held in Japan but were cancelled due to World War Two.

IOC boss Bach is also in a tricky situation, after his repeated statements that the Games were on track brought a backlash from athletes and some national Olympic committees.

That, combined with disquiet over his support for Russian athletes to continue competing as neutrals despite their nation's doping scandal, has threatened his grip on the IOC.

Bach is up for re-election next year.

(Production: Tim Hart, Ursa Presern)

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