Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 3 April 2020

Coronavirus: crowds flock to see Olympic flame after Tokyo Games postponed - in pictures

Japan determined to meet challenge of reorganising for 2021

Japan awoke on Wednesday to the deflating reality that the Olympics they had hoped to host in Tokyo this summer were now probably 16 months away after the coronavirus crisis forced organisers into an unprecedented postponement.

The International Olympic Committee and Japanese government succumbed to intense pressure from athletes and sporting bodies around the world when they agreed to put back the Games until 2021.

Crowds still came to see the Olympic flame, queuing to get a glimpse and witness the ceremony despite the decision.

It was a huge blow to Japan and also for the prestige of the Olympic movement and its leader Thomas Bach, who had come under fire for not reacting sooner in the face of the global health crisis.

Japan Olympic Committee President Yasuhiro Yamashita said the decision had come earlier than he thought it would, but he was determined that the host nation's athletes would be ready to compete in 2021.

"Now that the decisions have been made, let's take this positively, reset our mindset," he told a news conference.

"With fresh mind, not giving up, I want to go through this challenge heading into next year."

Japanese government officials said Prime Minster Shinzo Abe had phoned US President Donald Trump to explain the postponement as they sought to further cushion the economy from the twin blows of the coronavirus and the delayed Games.

Tuesday's decision came 122 days before the planned opening ceremony at Japan's newly built National Stadium, which was to usher in the 16-day event featuring 11,000 athletes from 206 nations and territories.

The countdown clock in front of Tokyo Station which had been displaying the number of days until the Games halted and reverted to Wednesday's date and time.

Updated: March 25, 2020 02:33 PM

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