Pressure grows on Japan to postpone Olympics as IOC insists contingency planning underway with decision in four weeks

Finally, there has been a seismic change of direction from the International Olympic Committee.

Rather than continuing to insist Tokyo 2020 will go ahead as scheduled it has committed to exploring alternative options to staging the Games in July and giving itself a deadline of four weeks to do so.

In a statement following another emergency Executive Board meeting, the IOC recognised the scale of the problem ahead.

“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.”

Calls to delay the Olympics are growing. Credit: AP

They have already come under pressure from a number of sports, including the most influential of them all, the USA Track and Field team to postpone the Games, an outcome that now looks inevitable.

That pressure grew exponentially when Sebastian Coe the boss of World Athletics wrote to the IOC President Thomas Bach just before today’s meeting, describing the Games as neither “feasible or desirable.”

After today’s dramatic developments the British Olympic Association boss Sir Hugh Robertson urged the IOC not to use all of the full four week window they’ve allowed themselves.

“We urge rapid decision-making for the sake of athletes who still face significant uncertainty….it simply does not seem appropriate to continue on the present course towards the Olympic Games in the current environment.”

Sebastian Coe said the Olympics this year are not desirable. Credit: AP

Meanwhile the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) says it will not send athletes to Tokyo unless the Games are postponed by at least a year.

“The Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC), backed by their Athletes’ Commissions, National Sports Organisations and the Government of Canada, have made the difficult decision to not send Canadian teams to the Olympic and Paralympic Games in the summer of 2020,” the COC said in a statement.

“While we recognise the inherent complexities around a postponement, nothing is more important than the health and safety of our athletes and the world community.

“We remain hopeful that the IOC and IPC will agree with the decision to postpone the Games as a part of our collective responsibility to protect our communities and work to contain the spread of the virus.”

Many athletes themselves are angry at the time it’s taking to make this decision, especially as preparation is near impossible under coronavirus restrictions.

Team GB’s Dina Asher-Smith spoke for many on Twitter: “So wait…does this mean that athletes face up to another FOUR weeks of finding ways to fit in training – whilst potentially putting ourselves, coaches, support staff and loved ones at risk just to find out they were going to be postponed anyway!!!”

There are many options open to Games organisers, from a reduced, behind closed doors version later this year to a full spectacle in 12 month’s time.