Postponement of the Olympic Games: turning momentum

After the Japanese government proposed an Olympic cancellation for a year, the IOC finally reacted and approved the transfer.

Postponement of the Olympic Games: turning momentum
Forced to agree: Thomas Bach (left) and Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in July Photo: imago / Kyodo News

In the Anglo-Saxon region, athletes like to speak of “momentum” when something changes in their favor. The ominous momentum, a kind of fateful condensation of indefinable elements, often decides on victory or defeat. The momentum regarding the Summer Olympics was clearly on the side of those who are in favor of canceling the major event.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC), which was still hesitant until noon and headed by Thomas Bach, became more and more on the defensive; not to say: the momentum threatened to overwhelm and flatten it. When the pressure became too great – in the afternoon around 1:30 p.m. a huge wave built up – the Lords of the Rings gave in and agreed to postpone the summer games by one year. What happened? Why did IOC boss Thomas Bach quickly give in to his circumstances?

The first thing to blame on Tuesday morning was the influential National Olympic Committee of the United States, USOC for short, which decided to make a decision similar to that of the Canadians the day before: It is calling for the postponement of Olympia; Canada’s committee had made it clear on Monday that it would not send its athletes to the games in Tokyo this summer. Finally, the breaking news arrived on Tuesday afternoon that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had proposed to the IOC to postpone the Tokyo Summer Games by one year. The IOC’s scope shrank to the size of a postage stamp. Bach was forced to act.


Abe said, according to the Japanese television broadcaster NHK, that this step was inevitable because the competitions originally scheduled for July and August 2020 would not be fully possible under the circumstances. The athletes needed a safe environment. That also applies to the audience.

US athletes for a relocation

In order to get an idea of ​​the mood, USOC had previously asked athletes whether they could imagine participating in the world’s largest sports festival under the current conditions of a worldwide virus pandemic that is leading to restrictions in everyday training. In a statement, the USOC board of trustees Susanne Lyons and chairwoman Sarah Hirshland cited the vote of 4,000 US athletes. Almost 65 percent stated that their training options were severely impaired or that they could not train at all due to Sars-CoV-2 and the restrictions. When asked whether they thought the games were still based on fair competitive conditions, 68 percent said no.

“Our most important conclusion from this clear reaction from the athletes is that the enormous disruptions to the training environment, doping controls and qualification process for the Olympics cannot be overcome satisfactorily, even if the current significant health concerns could be eliminated by late summer,” USOC said With. “For this reason, it is clearer than ever that the road to postponement is the most promising,” USOC announced on Sunday that the IOC was not going to be forced to make a decision.

The US athletes’ associations, gymnasts and swimmers had previously spoken out in favor of postponing the games and had put pressure on them. Nevertheless, IOC boss Thomas Bach had announced at the weekend that he wanted to give himself four weeks to make a decision – and he received violent media contradiction.

The representative of the US athletes, Han Xiao, also asked the IOC to act: “Every day counts.” The 2021 sports calendar now has to be re-coordinated with the swimmers and athletes. Both divisions wanted to hold world championships in the coming summer. It is also questionable what will happen to an Olympic village that should be part of the Japanese real estate market in the coming year. And has the corona crisis calmed down so far that viewers from all parts of the world can enter Japan without a protective quarantine? Only the early development of a vaccine provides security?

The messages from the USOC and the Japanese government have left the IOC with no leeway. The Americans send most of the athletes to the games. The NBC television station pays more TV money than any other network. The companies Coca-Cola and Visa are probably the best known and most loyal sponsors of the games. Thomas Bach had no choice at all: he had to make a decision quickly before the momentum would have made him look really bad.


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