IOC must postpone Tokyo 2020 before more withdrawals force their hand

The snowball is growing so large, so quickly, that it is threatening to engulf the Olympics in Tokyo before organisers make the inevitable decision to postpone the Games.

The last thing the International Olympic Committee needs now is for that decision to be taken out of their hands, which could easily happen if many more powerful nations follow Canada’s lead to boycott Tokyo 2020. The IOC knows this, so expect the call to come long before the end of the four-week deadline they’ve given themselves.

Pressure has built exponentially over the past few days not just from the Canadians but the Australian team, too, have been told to prepare for 2021. The boss of World Athletics Seb Coe has called for a postponement, while Team GB is likely to do exactly the same on Tuesday, and in a survey of more than 4,000 athletes, The Athletics Association has revealed 78 per cent want an immediate postponement.

They need some certainty as for most preparation is near impossible under coronavirus restrictions. Team GB’s Dina Asher-Smith spoke for many on Twitter, she posted: “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!!!”

The vast majority of athletes who’ve voiced an opinion also prefer a straight 12 months delay and at this stage it seems that is the likely eventual outcome. That presents all kinds of logistical and financial nightmares for Japan, the IOC and all National Olympic Committees but in the final assessment it appears to be the best of all options.

One potential obstacle has been removed it seems, with the World Athletics Championships in Oregon next year indicating it could be shifted by a few months to make space in the calendar for the Olympics. The venue staging the championships is privately owned by Nike, so can be used at any time of year.

But all potential contingencies can be explored in the coming weeks; what the IOC must do right now is announce a postponement. No one is blaming them for where we are but to keep Plan A on the table for any longer is both baffling and insensitive to put it mildly. The Olympic movement will not want to come through this crisis with a diminished reputation but they’re very close to allowing that to happen, if they continue to insist that July really still is an option. It is not.