In the wake of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, which included the return of softball, has been postponed and will be rescheduled no later than the summer of 2021. The decision, announced in a joint statement by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee, was made to safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games and the international community.
The official statement came after a conference call between IOC President Thomas Bach and Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in addition to local organizers and officials and other IOC officials. In it, the leaders agreed that the Olympic Games in Tokyo could stand as a beacon of hope to the world during these troubled times and that the Olympic flame could become the light at the end of the tunnel in which the world finds itself at present. Therefore, it was agreed that the Olympic flame will stay in Japan. It was also agreed that the Games will keep the name Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.
With the impact on softball and baseball, the World Baseball Softball Confederation welcomed the difficult decision. Baseball and softball are making their first Olympic appearance since the 2008 Beijing Games, and are expected to be one of the top attractions of the Games in Japan, where baseball and softball are the most popular sports.
"The WBSC welcomes and fully supports the joint decision taken by the IOC, Tokyo 2020 and Japan Prime Minister Abe Shinzo to postpone the start of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said WBSC president Riccardo Fraccari. “While the postponement is heartbreaking for athletes -- and our baseball and softball players -- around the world, the ‘Tokyo 2020’ Games in 2021 can be a symbol of global recovery and solidarity, and be one of the greatest worldwide celebrations and most anticipated moments in the history of sport.”
In an email to the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic community, United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC) CEO Sarah Hirshland supported the IOC and IPC decisions.
“We know the decision was not made lightly, but with the safety and well-being of athletes and our communities around the world in mind,” Hirshland wrote. “It was the right decision. We recognize this presents more questions than answers at this time — the complexities of this new reality have never been experienced by this global community. We will get through this together. Our commitment to and focus on our mission has never been stronger.”
Since the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, the Summer Games have been cancelled just three times — in 1916, 1940 and 1944 — each time due to war. The Winter Games were also canceled in 1940 and 1944. Although the Games have had changes before, such as the 1904 Olympics going to St. Louis after originally being awarded to Chicago, the event has never been postponed to outside the scheduled Olympic year.
Information courtesy of the IOC, WBSC, USOPC (Chrös McDougall, Red Line Editorial)