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US, New Zealand join calls for Tokyo Games to be postponed

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The United States added its significant weight to calls for the Tokyo Games to be postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, with New Zealand Olympic organisers seeking a swift decision to allow teams to reset and prepare for a delayed event.

The banner for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is displayed in front of Fukushima station in Fukushima, Japan, March 24, 2020, in this photo taken by Kyodo. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS


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TOKYO/LOS ANGELES: The United States added its significant weight to calls for the Tokyo Games to be postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, with New Zealand Olympic organisers seeking a swift decision to allow teams to reset and prepare for a delayed event.

The Sankei newspaper reported Japan's government is negotiating with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to postpone the Games by up to a year, in what would be a first in the Olympics' 124-year modern history.

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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe would hold talks over the phone with IOC President Thomas Bach at 1100 GMT on Tuesday, the Japanese government said.

On Monday, former IOC board member Dick Pound said the Swiss-based body appeared to have decided to delay the event, likely for a year, due to the virus.

The outbreak has now infected more than 377,000 across 194 countries and territories globally as of Tuesday morning, according to a Reuters tally, with over 16,500 deaths linked to the virus.

Efforts to contain it have led to major travel, commercial and social restrictions, which have also disrupted many athletes' preparations for the Games.

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Major sporting powers Canada and Australia have already said they will not be sending teams to Tokyo if the Games go ahead as scheduled this year.

The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee said it had listened to feedback from athletes and was encouraged by a clearer path towards postponement.

"Our most important conclusion from this broad athlete response is that even if the current significant health concerns could be alleviated by late summer, the enormous disruptions to the training environment, doping controls and qualification process can't be overcome in a satisfactory manner," the USOPC said in a statement on Monday.

The United States is by far the most successful nation in the history of the modern Summer Games, while the rights deal with American broadcaster NBC to televise the Olympics represents from 50per cent to 70per cent of the IOC's total annual revenues.

New Zealand Olympic organisers also came out in support of a delay.

“We fully support current steps to postpone the Olympic and Paralympic Games. This decision needs to be made quickly to provide the athletes, coaches and support staff with certainty, which will allow them to focus on their wellbeing at this critical time, while resetting and recalibrating for Tokyo.”

Any delay would face major logistical difficulties given the crowded global sporting calendar and other commercial considerations.

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