Olympic athletes and federations react to the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics

The coronavirus outbreak forced the International Olympic Committee to postponed the 2020 Tokyo Olympics until 2021.
(Charly Triballeau / AFP via Getty Images)

International Olympic Committee officials announced Tuesday its decision to postpone the 2020 Tokyo Olympics until a date to be determined in 2021.

The decision, which was spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, drew reactions from athletes and sports federations across the world:



Carli Lloyd, U.S. women’s national team soccer player and three-time Olympian, on WPVI-TV in Philadelphia: It’s bigger than an Olympics. I definitely think it’s the right call. Disappointed... but I think for the safety of everybody, it’s definitely the best thing.”

Kerri Walsh Jennings, five-time U.S. Olympic beach volleyball player: “When you do something on a grand scale, you want to do it right. Give time for the world to heal. I can’t imagine the enthusiasm that’s going to be coming next year, with the whole world coming together to watch this. I know the Japanese people are going to make the best of this.”

Ryan Lochte, 12-time Olympic swimming medalist: “I was a little pissed off because I’ve been training my butt off and I’ve been feeling great. This Olympics was going to be the most important Olympics of my career because of everything that’s happened in my past.

“But this whole thing is way bigger than me. It’s way bigger than the Olympians. It’s affecting the entire world right now. Our main thing is staying safe and healthy.”

Ben Blankenship, U.S. Olympic 1,500-meter runner: “I’m glad they did make it. I think the writing was a little bit on the wall. Especially when Australia and Canada both came out and said they weren’t going to send teams, I think it was a little ominous. I don’t think there was any choice. You would put the athletes, fans, coaches and volunteers at risk of traveling. Right now for the majority of volunteers, they’re a little older. I think when you start saying in three months, two months, you’re going to have to be leaving your house and be active and come in contact with tourists, that’s a tough one? If you push down the tracks even more and say we hold the Olympics but without fans, I think that might take away some of the excitement of the games.”

Nneka Ogwumike, Team USA forward and Sparks standout: I definitely agree with the decision to postpone it. I think not postponing it would have posed more difficulties for everyone, not just the athletes.”

Kaleigh Gilchrist, U.S. Olympic women’s water polo player: “It’s been stressful, but with the postponement I hope we can all take a big sigh of relief and focus on staying healthy and then getting after it once the team gets back together.”

Alex Obert, U.S. Olympic men’s water polo player: “The health and well-being of everyone in the world is the most important thing, but when as an athlete you get so focused on one thing, it’s hard when these things change. It’s just kind of a shock right now. Obviously, I think it was the right decision.”

Noah Lyle, U.S. track world champion in the 200 meters (to “I’ve been watching the news closely because I think we’re all just a little jittery and anxious to see what comes up. It was a little relief to see that the Olympics has decided to postpone because my first concern was that everybody would be healthy and everybody would have a fair place to actually compete. So seeing it delayed gives me a little bit of security that the Olympics is worried about everybody. They’re trying to keep everybody in good health and good spirits. And seeing that World Athletics is in support of that makes me feel good about my sport.”

Federica Pellegrini, Italian swimmer preparing for her fifth Olympics: “I don’t want to believe it. It seems like a joke, it seems like destiny, coincidence, but the fact remains that I can’t stop swimming.

“We’ll prepare for it as best as we can. Now it’s just about reprogramming everything, as we would have done this year. And let’s hope that my body can hold on for another year.”

Alex Obert and Chancellor Ramirez are disappointed about the Tokyo Games being postponed but believe the move was needed amid the coronavirus outbreak.

March 24, 2020

Statement from Sarah Hirschland, U.S. Olympic and Paralymic Committee CEO, to U.S. athletes: “Despite the feeling of eventuality that so many of us have felt in the lead up to this moment — my heart breaks for you, your fellow athletes around the world, our friends at Tokyo 2020, the people of Japan, and all who are impacted by this global pandemic and the decision to postpone the Tokyo Games 2020.

“We heard your concerns and we shared them. I thank you for being so forthcoming with your perspectives, and also for allowing us the time to hear from your teammates across all sports before making a recommendation to the IOC.

“With this decision, the work of planning a new version of the Tokyo Games is now officially underway.”

Statement from international track federation (World Athletics): “It is what athletes want and we believe this decision will give all athletes, technical officials and volunteers some respite and certainty in these unprecedented and uncertain times.”

International swimming federation (FINA) statement: ”...Following today’s joint announcement by the IOC and Tokyo 2020 Organizers, concerning the postponement of the Olympic Games for 2021, FINA will now work closely with the host organizing committee of the 2021 FINA World Championships in Fukuoka, with the Japan Swimming Federation and with the Japanese public authorities, in order to determine flexibility around the dates of the competition, if necessary and in agreement with the IOC.”

The IOC, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and local organizers Tuesday decided to postpone the Tokyo Summer Games over the coronavirus.

March 24, 2020

International Union of the Modern Pentathlon (UIPM) President Dr Klaus Schormann: “We are living in extraordinary times and we must all take drastic action to combat this Coronavirus, with collective responsibility for public health and the preservation of life.

“The crisis has escalated in recent days and weeks, especially in Europe, and the restrictions on travel and training imposed in many countries mean we can no longer ask athletes to continue preparing for competitions in May and June 2020.

“The IOC and the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee have the full support of UIPM in their decision to postpone the Olympic Games, which has been held every four years since London 1948.

Statement from International Table Tennis Federation President Thomas Weikert: “As partners of the IOC since 1988, we at the ITTF have lived very good times. We have grown as an Olympic sport and, more than ever, we are here to say that we wholeheartedly support today’s IOC decision. We are conscious of how difficult it is to deal with the organization of a quadrennial event of such magnitude as the Olympic and Paralympic Games.”

In the end, the International Olympic Committee had no other choice but to postponed the Olympics until 2021 because of the coronavirus outbreak.

March 24, 2020

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach: “This Olympic flame will be the light at the end of the tunnel.”

International Paralympic Committee President Andrew Parsons: “Postponing the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games as a result of the global COVID-19 outbreak is absolutely the right thing to do. The health and well-being of human life must always be our number one priority and staging a sport event of any kind during this pandemic is simply not possible.

Times staff writers Kevin Baxter, Helene Elliott, Tania Ganguli, Nathan Fenno and Gary Klein contributed to this report. The Associated Press also contributed.