The 2020 Tokyo Olympics have been postponed to no later than the summer of 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe, the International Olympic Committee announced Tuesday.

The Games were scheduled for July 24-August 9, but after telephone discussions between IOC president Thomas Bach and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a historic joint decision was taken for the first postponement of an Olympics in peacetime.

Abe had earlier said Bach was in “100 percent agreement” when Japan asked the IOC to push back the Games.

The IOC had come under mounting pressure in recent days to postpone the world’s biggest sporting event, with teams, athletes and sports bodies all calling for a delay.

The postponement comes after top federations announced they would pull out of the Tokyo Games, the highest-profile event to be affected by a virus that has decimated the sporting calendar.

Around 1.7 billion people across the world are in lockdown to prevent the further spread of a virus which according to an AFP tally has killed over 16,200 people and infected more than 377,000.

Fifa on Tuesday welcomed the decision to postpone the 2020 Tokyo Olympics amid efforts to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

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“Fifa firmly believes that the health and well-being of all individuals involved in sporting activities should always be the highest priority, and as such we welcome today’s IOC decision. Further to the IOC’s decision, Fifa will work with relevant stakeholders to address all key matters related to this rescheduling,” the statement added.

British Olympic Association chairman Hugh Robertson said he was “heartbroken” for the Tokyo organisers.

“Clearly I am very sorry for, having delivered the 2012 Olympic Games as Olympic Minister, I have extremely good knowledge of how much hard work goes into an Olympics and a Paralympic Games,” Robertson told AFP.

“This is heartbreaking news for our many friends in Japan who have done superbly well to prepare for what I know will be an outstanding Games.

“However, the IOC had no option under the present circumstances but to reach the decision they did.”

Robertson admitted it was frustrating and upsetting for the athletes.

“Clearly it is very sad news for the athletes but they will have their chance when the Games are re-scheduled,” he said.

“The most important thing for them and much more so than Olympic glory is that they keep themselves, their friends and families safe at this deeply worrying time.”

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Olympic Federation of Ireland CEO Peter Sherrard welcomed the decision.

“This is the right call given the times that we are in,” he said in a statement.

“Nonetheless we recognise it was a difficult call for Japan to make, and we are looking forward to working with the IOC and countries all over the world to make Tokyo 2021 a poignant moment for the whole world once these difficult times are over.”

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