Japan, IOC officially postpone Tokyo Games until 2021
KAZUHIRO NOGI / AFP / Getty

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach agreed to a plan that will postpone the Tokyo Games "to a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021" to protect the safety of athletes and organizers amid the global coronavirus pandemic.

The two leaders held a conference call Tuesday to discuss a contingency plan for the event, which was originally slated to begin July 24.

Tokyo 2020 will remain the games' title despite taking place in 2021.

The IOC previously said it would make a decision on the Tokyo Games over the next four weeks, but that timeline may have been accelerated after IOC member Dick Pound told Christine Brennan of USA TODAY on Monday that "postponement has been decided."

Tokyo 2020 is the largest sporting event to be disrupted by the COVID-19 virus, which has infected over 300,000 people globally and resulted in more than 15,000 deaths.

Calls for postponement began weeks ago and grew louder after the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic committees announced Sunday they would boycott the event if it went ahead as originally scheduled.

Olympic committees in Australia, Germany, and the United States joined the push for postponement after the Canadian announcement.

"Our most important conclusion from this broad athlete response is that 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 United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee said in a statement.

The Olympics have been canceled before - the first and second World Wars derailed the Summer Games in 1916 and the Summer and Winter Games in 1940 and 1944, respectively - but Tuesday's announcement marks the first time the event has been suspended.

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Japan, IOC officially postpone Tokyo Games until 2021
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