Tokyo 2020 Olympics postponed over coronavirus concerns

The global competition is the biggest sporting event to be affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

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By Ahiza García-Hodges and Yuliya Talmazan

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics have been postponed, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced Tuesday.

Abe said Japan and the International Olympic Committee came to an agreement during a phone call with the head of the IOC, Thomas Bach, following growing calls for the games to be delayed or canceled because of the concerns around coronavirus pandemic.

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The Japanese leader said they have agreed that the games would not be cancelled and will be held by the summer of 2021, his office said on Twitter.

The Olympics is the biggest event yet to be affected by the growing global pandemic. The Olympics was set to run from July 24 through Aug. 9, and the Paralympics from Aug. 25 to Sept. 6.

The IOC has dealt with potential health threats in the recent past, but none so serious that they affected the scheduled timeline.

There were concerns about the bird flu ahead of the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, Zika during the 2016 Rio Olympics and swine flu before the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

In February, Dick Pound, the longest-serving member of the International Olympic Committee, said a decision about the fate of the Tokyo Olympics would likely need to be made by the end of May. He said cancellation might be an option but encouraged athletes to keep training.

The Olympic flame arrived in Japan on March 20 for a journey that would have led to the opening ceremony. At the time, IOC President Thomas Bach said it would be irresponsible to set a deadline for deciding on the status of the games.

The IOC's move follows the suspension of many major sporting events and seasons around the world.

Regions hit hard by the outbreak in Asia and Europe have canceled sporting events, including the Hong Kong Marathon and Italy's Serie A soccer matches.

In mid-March, the NBA suspended its season after a player on the Utah Jazz preliminarily tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

That decision by the NBA was quickly followed by similar announcements from other pro leagues. Within hours, the NHL, Major League Soccer and MLB announced they would be pausing or postponing their seasons.

By the end of that week, the NCAA made the decision to cancel its men's and women's college basketball tournaments, known as March Madness. The cancellation extended to all remaining winter and spring NCAA championships.

Since then several other events have been postponed, including the French Open, the Invictus Games and the London Marathon.