Tokyo Olympics 2020: IOC set deadline for decision on Games amid coronavirus

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics are in danger of postponement, due to the coronavirus pandemic, with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) giving itself a deadline of four weeks to make a decision.

The IOC's executive board met on Monday (NZ time), amid mounting pressure from athletes and national Olympic committees, who have slammed the organisers' stance to press ahead with plans to stage the event, which is due to run from 24 July to 9 August.

The Games are under threat due to the coronavirus pandemic, currently affecting most of the world.

The IOC repeated that cancellation of the Games "is not on the agenda", but did openly acknowledge a postponement was on the cards. 

In a letter to athletes, IOC president Thomas Bach said the four-week window would allow the correct parties to study different options around a postponement of the Games.

"A decision about a postponement today could not determine a new date for the Olympic Games, because of the uncertain developments in both directions - an improvement, as we are seeing in a number of countries, thanks to the severe measures being taken, or a deteriorating situation in other countries," wrote Bach. 

"Contrary to other sports events, to postpone the Olympic Games is an extremely complex challenge. 

"A number of critical venues needed for the Games could potentially not be available anymore. 

"The situation with millions of nights already booked in hotels is extremely difficult to handle and the international sports calendar for at least 33 Olympic sports would have to be adapted. 

"These are just a few of many, many more challenges.

"Therefore, further to the study of different scenarios, it would need the full commitment and cooperation of the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee and the Japanese authorities, and of all the International Federations and National Olympic Committees and all stakeholders of the Olympic Games. 

"It is in light of the worldwide deteriorating situation and in the spirit of our shared commitment to the Olympic Games that the IOC Executive Board has today initiated the next step in our scenarios.

"Together with all the stakeholders, we have started detailed discussions today to complete our assessment of the rapid development of the worldwide health situation and its impact on the Olympic Games, including a scenario of postponement. 

"We are working very hard and we are confident that we will have finalised these discussions within the next four weeks."

The British Olympic Association (BOA) welcomed the statement, but called for the IOC to make decisions quickly.

"However, we urge rapid decision-making for the sake of the athletes who still face significant uncertainty," said BOA chairman Sir Hugh Roberston.

"Restrictions have removed the ability of athletes to compete on a level playing field and it simply does not seem appropriate to continue towards the Olympic Games in the current environment."

Last Saturday, USA Swimming chief executive Tim Hinchey wrote a letter to the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee, calling for the national governing body to push for the postponement by 12 months. USA Track and Field chief executive Max Miegel followed suit a day later.

Both noted that the safety of athletes and their struggle to train for the Summer Games was a concern.

The Norwegian Olympic and Paralympic Committee and Confederation of Sports also want the tournament put on hold, until the coronavirus situation is under firm control on a global scale.

Norway is one of the worst-affected countries in Europe, with citizens facing fines or jail time, if they're caught breaking home quarantine or home isolation rules.

UK Athletics chairman Nic Coward has also suggested that the Tokyo 2020 Olympics should be postponed.

World Athletics president Lord Sebastian Coe suggested the Olympics could be moved to later in the year, but it was too early to make a decision, with the Games still four months away. 

Also last week, IOC Athletes' Commission member and four-time Olympic ice hockey gold medallist Hayley Wickenheiser tweeted that the IOC's insistence on forging ahead was "irresponsible".

Olympic pole vault champion Katerina Stefanidi echoed Wickenheiser's comments, accusing the IOC of leaving athletes "at-risk".

British world champion heptathlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson said she felt "under pressure" after lockdown laws made maintaining her training routine "impossible". 

British four-time Olympic rowing champion Matthew Pinsent criticised Bach's comments, calling for the Games to be called off. 

"I'm sorry, Mr Bach, but this is tone-deaf," Pinsent tweeted. "The instinct to keep safe is not compatible with athlete training, travel and focus that a looming Olympics demands of athletes, spectators and organisers. 

"Keep them safe. Call it off."