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Coronavirus: Tokyo Olympics is FINALLY postponed for a year

The Tokyo Olympics has finally been postponed for a year after Japan called for a delay due to the coronavirus crisis.     

The Games must be rescheduled to a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021, the International Olympic Committee said in a statement. 

The name of the delayed Olympics will still be Tokyo 2020, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said today, adding that the Games would be held next year.

Koike made the comment to reporters after she and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe spoke to the head of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach.  

Prime Minister Abe said after his telephone talks with Bach that he requested a postponement of about one year 'taking into consideration the current circumstances' and to secure an environment in which athletes can perform in their best conditions and the sense of safety and security for the audience. 

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe (pictured) and International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach have agreed to postpone the Tokyo 2020 Olympics for one year due to the coronavirus pandemic

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe (pictured) and International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach have agreed to postpone the Tokyo 2020 Olympics for one year due to the coronavirus pandemic

Pictured: A man wearing a mask passes the logo of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games displayed on the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building. The Games must be rescheduled to a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021, the International Olympic Committee said in a statement

Pictured: A man wearing a mask passes the logo of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games displayed on the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building. The Games must be rescheduled to a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021, the International Olympic Committee said in a statement

The IOC President Thomas Bach has agreed '100%' to the postponement proposal and said the decision was 'about protecting human life'.

Bach said the new dates for the first Games to be postponed during peacetime would be decided by an IOC panel overseeing the Games and the Tokyo organisers. 

Abe had previously said a postponement was unavoidable if the 2020 Games couldn't be held in a complete manner amid the virus pandemic.   

The IOC and Japanese government had announced they would undertake a month-long consultation before making a final decision but there was a rethink as more and more voices joined the chorus of calls for a postponement.

On Monday, former IOC board member Dick Pound said the Swiss-based body appeared to have decided to delay the event, likely for a year, due to the virus. 

Chief executive officer of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Toshiro Muto (right) and Tokyo 2020 president Yoshiro Mori attend a press conference in Tokyo to discuss the postponement of the Games

Chief executive officer of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Toshiro Muto (right) and Tokyo 2020 president Yoshiro Mori attend a press conference in Tokyo to discuss the postponement of the Games 

The Olympic flame burns during a ceremony in Fukushima City, Japan today. The torch relay which was meant to start on Thursday has also been cancelled

The Olympic flame burns during a ceremony in Fukushima City, Japan today. The torch relay which was meant to start on Thursday has also been cancelled

People stand in orderly fashion as the Tokyo 2020 Olympic flame is displayed to the public outside Fukushima railway station

People stand in orderly fashion as the Tokyo 2020 Olympic flame is displayed to the public outside Fukushima railway station

The Tokyo Olympic torch relay - which was meant to start on Thursday as planned in northeastern Fukushima prefecture - will now also be cancelled. 

What will the impact of postponing the Tokyo Olympics have on Japan's GDP?

The coronavirus pandemic has already helped push Japan towards a recession, with GDP contracting 1.8 percent in the October-December quarter.

Economists at research firm Fitch on Monday revised its 2020 growth forecast for Japan to -1.1 percent from -0.2 percent, reflecting the risks to consumption, tourism and exports posed by the pandemic.

But it said that a postponement of the Games could worsen the situation significantly, and 'could impact GDP between 0.5 and 0.8 percentage point to our forecast.'

A postponement 'would badly affect Japanese consumer confidence' Takashi Miwa, an economist at Nomura, told AFP.

It is also unclear what effect it might have on the 240 billion yen ($2.28 billion) in spending from foreign spectators expected to attend the Games.

The Tokyo 2020 organisers decline to say how many foreign visitors they expect to visit Japan specifically to watch the sporting action.

So far 4.5 million tickets have been sold in Japan, with around 7.8 million expected to be sold overall, 20 to 30 percent of them internationally.

How the postponement will affect those tickets is not yet clear.

Economists at SMBC Nikko Securities said Tuesday that postponing the Games would reduce the country's GDP this year by some $6 billion. But, they added, the same amount would be gained when the Games are eventually held, effectively cancelling out the losses. 

There was meant to be an Olympic flame - that arrived on March 12 from Greece - carried in a lantern and transported by a vehicle along what organizers hoped would be empty roadsides. 

The Olympics have never before been delayed, though they were cancelled altogether in 1916, 1940 and 1944 during the two world wars. 

It is not yet clear what will happen to ticket holders hoping to attend and how the refund process will work.  

In response British Paralympic discus thrower Dan Greaves tweeted: 'Absolutely the right decision to postpone both the Olympics & @Paralympics by a year. Health comes first & with that, athletes can now take care of theres to make sure they are able to make the hard work count!!'

The coronavirus outbreak has now infected more than 377,000 across 194 according to a Reuters tally on Tuesday morning, with over 16,500 deaths linked to the virus.

Efforts to contain it have led to major travel, commercial and social restrictions, which have also hindered the ability of many athletes to prepare for the Games.

Canada and Australia had already said they wouldn't be sending teams to Tokyo if the Games went as scheduled this year, while Britain said it was likely to follow suit after meeting with sporting body representatives on Tuesday.

The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee said it had listened to feedback from athletes and was encouraged by a clearer path towards postponement.

'Even if the current significant health concerns could be alleviated by late summer, the enormous disruptions to the training environment, doping controls and qualification process can't be overcome in a satisfactory manner,' the USOPC said in a statement on Monday.

The United States is by far the most successful nation in the history of the Games, while the rights deal with American broadcaster NBC to televise the Olympics represents from 50% to 70% of the IOC's total annual revenues. 

Tony Estanguet, head of the Paris 2024 Olympics organising committee and an IOC member, had also said a delay of the 2020 Olympics was likely.

'Today the Games are not the priority, the priority is health, and that is how the world of sports contributes to that international solidarity,' Estanguet said on France Info radio.

Japan and the IOC had previously said calling off the Games entirely is not an option but a delay would present major logistical difficulties given the crowded global sporting calendar and other commercial considerations.

The name of the delayed Olympics will still be Tokyo 2020, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike (pictured) said today, adding that the Games would be held next year

The name of the delayed Olympics will still be Tokyo 2020, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike (pictured) said today, adding that the Games would be held next year

Pictured: A ceremony is held at Miyako Station of Sanriku Railway in Iwate Prefecture on March 22, 2020, marking the departure of the flame for this year's Tokyo Olympics on a tour of northeastern Japan

Pictured: A ceremony is held at Miyako Station of Sanriku Railway in Iwate Prefecture on March 22, 2020, marking the departure of the flame for this year's Tokyo Olympics on a tour of northeastern Japan

Pictured: A man wearing a face mask, amid concerns of the COVID-19 coronavirus, walks past a display showing a countdown to the start of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo

Pictured: A man wearing a face mask, amid concerns of the COVID-19 coronavirus, walks past a display showing a countdown to the start of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo

The Tokyo Olympic torch relay which was meant to start on Thursday in the northeastern Fukushima prefecture has also been cancelled

The Tokyo Olympic torch relay which was meant to start on Thursday in the northeastern Fukushima prefecture has also been cancelled 

World Athletics said on Monday they would be willing to move their 2021 world championships, scheduled for Aug. 6-15 in Eugene, Oregon to clear a path for a 2021 Olympics.

What sectors will be affected by the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics?

According to analysts at Capital Economics, one key factor to consider in terms of how a postponement might hit Japan's economy is that most of the spending has already happened.

That means the effects of outlays, most notably on construction of new sporting venues, has already been factored into GDP in recent years.

But a postponement could drag down tourism as well as general consumption in the country, already under pressure after a controversial sales tax hike last year.

Tourism in Japan was already struggling before the coronavirus pandemic, amid a diplomatic spat with South Korea that prompted boycott calls. Visitors from South Korea previously made up the second largest contingent of tourists to Japan, behind only China.

And with the virus outbreak, Japan has seen a further fall in South Korean numbers, as well as a plunge in travellers from China, which together accounted for nearly half the 31.9 million foreign visitors to the country in 2019.

In February, the number of foreign visitors to Japan fell 58.3 percent compared to a year early, with a plunge of 87.9 percent in tourists coming from China, official figures show.

Japan has an industrialised and diversified economy not heavily reliant on tourism, with foreign visitor expenditures making up just 0.9 percent of GDP in 2018, according to economic research organisation CEIC.

But with domestic spending already weak, the hit from a postponement could ripple through the economy and further depress local purchasing.

A groundswell of concern from athletes - already struggling to train as gyms, stadiums and swimming pools close around the world - appeared to be tipping the balance towards that outcome.

'I have ridden not just a rollercoaster but the entire theme park of emotions,' Keesja Gofers, part of the Australian women's water polo team, said on Instagram.

'I am relieved. Athletes around the world will now have the chance at a proper preparation and the Olympics can, on whatever date they are held, continue to be a coming together of the world's best at their best.'

As of Tuesday, Japan had 1,128 confirmed cases of the 42 deaths attributed to the coronavirus. The situation in Japan seems almost normal with ordinary daily activity continuing, a stark contrast to Europe and the United States. 

An Olympics postponement would be a blow for host country Japan, which has pumped in more than $12 billion of investment, and huge sums are also at stake for sponsors and broadcasters.

A poll showed about 70% of the Japanese think it is appropriate to delay the Olympics, the Sankei said.

The Olympics have never before been delayed, though they were cancelled altogether in 1916, 1940 and 1944 during the two world wars. Major Cold War boycotts also disrupted the Moscow and Los Angeles Games in 1980 and 1984. 

At the end of 2019, organisers estimated the total cost of the Games at around 1.35 trillion yen ($12.6 billion).

That is divided between the city of Tokyo, which is paying 597 billion yen, the Japanese organising committee, which contributes 603 billion yen and the central government, which is paying 150 billion yen.

But the actual costs for the country have been hotly debated, with a widely publicised audit report estimating national government spending from the bid in 2013 until 2018 at 1.06 trillion yen, nearly 10 times the budget.

Japanese businesses have also poured money into the event in sponsorships, paying out a record 348 billion yen ($3.3 billion).

And that figure doesn't include the partnerships signed between major companies and the International Olympic Committee for rights to sponsor several Games. Among those are giants including Japan's Toyota, Bridgestone and Panasonic.

Toshiro Muto, CEO of Tokyo 2020, asked about how much delaying the games will cost Japan, said: 'The basic policy of postponement was decided today. How exactly are we going to achieve the postponement? That will be discussed among the IOC, us and Tokyo. I am sure it will be very difficult.'

Tickets for Tokyo 2020 may be non-refundable due to 'public health emergency' clause, leaving fans out of pocket… as coronavirus delay also hits TV ad revenues and Japan's economy

Olympic ticket holders are facing an anxious wait to discover if they will get a refund after Tokyo 2020 organisers finally gave in and postponed the Games. 

Millions of tickets have already been sold for the two-week showpiece, raising at least $800million (£680million) before the coronavirus outbreak began.  

Some spectators say they may not be able to attend a rearranged Olympics in 2021 and fear they will not be eligible for a refund.  

The terms and conditions say that unforeseeable circumstances - including a 'public health emergency' - would allow organisers to rip up the rule-book. 

Organisers have not yet committed themselves, saying merely that refunds are not ruled out. 

Meanwhile, TV networks who paid millions for Olympic broadcast rights will face a two-week gap in their schedules and a drop in advertising revenue, although they say they are insured. 

Japan's economy is also expected to take a hit as foreign sports fans abandon their trips to Tokyo and the postponement deals a blow to consumer confidence.  

The Olympics have never before been delayed, though they were cancelled altogether in 1916, 1940 and 1944 during the two world wars. Major Cold War boycotts also disrupted the Moscow and Los Angeles Games in 1980 and 1984

The Olympics have never before been delayed, though they were cancelled altogether in 1916, 1940 and 1944 during the two world wars. Major Cold War boycotts also disrupted the Moscow and Los Angeles Games in 1980 and 1984

The wording of the ticket rules is that 'Tokyo 2020 shall not be liable for any failure to perform any obligation under the terms and conditions to the extent that the failure is caused by a force majeure'.  

A force majeure is defined as 'any cause beyond Tokyo 2020's reasonable control, including, without limitation, acts of God, war, insurrection, riot, civil disturbance, acts of terrorism, fire, explosion, flood, theft, malicious damage, strike, lock out, weather, third party injunction, national defence requirements, public health emergency, and acts or regulations of national or local governments'. 

There is no specific section on what happens to refunds, but they are part of the overall rules which can be abandoned in case of special circumstances.  

Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun voiced the fears of many ticket-holders last week, suggesting that tickets might not be refundable. 

Tokyo 2020 organisers downplayed the story, insisting that the terms and conditions do not exclude the possibility of a refund.  

But they did not deny the claim that special circumstances may apply, saying they were monitoring the situation. 

Organisers have not confirmed how many tickets have been sold, but previously said that more than seven million seats would be available.   

All domestic tickets have already been sold, according to organisers. In the most recent Games budget from December 2019, organisers said $800 million (£680million) had been raised through ticket sales.  

The delay to the two-week showpiece also blasts a hole in summer broadcast schedules after networks paid millions for Olympic rights. 

To make matters worse, organisers have yet to say exactly when the Games will take place. A statement today calls for them to be moved 'to a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021'.  

The owners of networks such as NBC and Eurosport say they have insurance - leaving insurers and re-insurers facing bills up to $300million. 

NBCUniversal said as recently as March 3 that it had sold more than $1.25billion in advertising for the Tokyo Olympics, a new record for any broadcaster. 

The Comcast-owned network, also hoped to use the Olympics to promote its new streaming service, Peacock.  

In the UK, the BBC was due to cover the Games but will now have to find alternative ways to fill its schedule. 

Some Britons have even called for the corporation to show repeats of the widely celebrated London 2012 Olympics to boost the national mood. 

Specialist sports broadcasters have already had their schedules torn up after major events such as the Premier League, Masters and Formula One season fell victim to the health crisis. 

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