Tokyo Olympics: Ireland and British Olympic governing bodies back postponement

Olympic Federation of Ireland chief executive Peter Sherrard
Irish Olympic chief Peter Sherrard said Ireland and other countries would aim to make the 2012 Games a "poignant moment for the whole world"

The Olympic Federation of Ireland and British Olympic Association have backed the decision to postpone the Tokyo Games to 2021 because of coronavirus.

The postponement until "no later than summer 2021" came after talks between the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Japan Government.

"This is the right call given the times that we are in," said Irish Federation chief Peter Sherrard.

The British Olympic body said it was the "only decision" that could be made.

"It would have been unthinkable for us to continue to prepare for an Olympic Games at a time the nation and the world no less is enduring great hardship. A postponement is the right decision," said BOA chief executive Andy Anson.

The delaying of the Games to 2021 means next year's scheduled World Athletics Championships in Oregon are now likely to be moved to 2022, with World Athletics confirming on Tuesday it already had held talks with the Oregon organising committee about securing an alternative date.

Next year's World Swimming Championships, scheduled to be held in the Japanese city of Fukuoka from 16 July to 1 August, are also set to move date with international governing body Fina saying it would work with event organisers to "determine flexibility" following the postponement of the Tokyo Games.

NI athletes can represent GB or Ireland

Northern Ireland athletes can opt to declare for Great Britain & Northern Ireland or the Ireland team at Olympic Games.

At recent Olympics, the majority of Northern Ireland-born athletes who earned qualification have represented Team Ireland.

Irish Olympic chief executive Sherrard said he recognised that Japan had been put in a difficult position.

"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," he added.

Anson said the British Olympic governing body had "incredible sympathy" for the Tokyo 2020 organising committee and the IOC.

"The Olympic Games is a symbol of hope for us all and we are sure that we will be in Tokyo at the right and appropriate time as the world re-emerges from this dark period," added the BOA chief executive.

Ireland women's hockey coach Sean Dancer shows his delight after his side's Olympic qualification last November
Sean Dancer's side became the first Ireland women's hockey team to qualify for an Olympics last November

'Decision puts athlete welfare first'

Ireland women's hockey coach Sean Dancer said his team supported the postponement

Dancer's side became the first Ireland women's hockey team to qualify for an Olympic Games last November.

"The decision to postpone the Games not only puts athlete's welfare first, but also the welfare of much wider communities and countries," said Dancer.

"These are unprecedented times and while incredibly stressful for so many, the decision to postpone the Games is one we support."

Dancer's team captain Katie Mullan said the players were "gutted" by the announcement but totally accepted the reasoning.

"What matters most is players health and well-being, as well as our families and friends, and we hope everyone is staying safe and healthy at this difficult time," said Mullan, who added that the players are continuing to train on their own at home at the moment.