A woman wearing a face mask walks past an Olympics countdown display in Tokyo. A notice in Japanese writing indicates the Olympics have been postponed.
Due to the coronavirus, or COVID-19, pandemic, many places and events where crowds of people gather have been closed or cancelled. Concerts and sporting events have been postponed, theme parks have closed, cruise ships have stopped sailing, and in-person services in many places of worship have been suspended. One of the largest events that has been postponed because of the pandemic are the 2020 Summer Olympic Games.
More than 10,000 athletes and about 600,000 spectators from the around the world were expected to gather in Tokyo, Japan, for the games starting in July of this year. Instead, the Olympic games are delayed for a whole year. Now, the symbolic flame that traditionally starts the games will not be lit until July 2021.
This is the first time in modern history that the Olympics have been cancelled for a reason other than war. The last Olympics to be cancelled were the 1940 and 1944 games. Because so many countries were fighting in World War II, these games were never held.
Athletes understand the important health reasons for postponing the Olympics, but they are still disappointed by the news. Many athletes have been training for most of their lives to be Olympians. Some older athletes are concerned that it might be more difficult to compete in 2021, after their bodies have aged another year. A few were even planning on retiring after the 2020 games. Some Olympians, like 38-year-old American sprinter Justin Gatlin, are still not sure whether or not they will put off their retirement to compete in 2021.
Other Olympians think that the delayed Olympic Games will help them improve their athletic performance. Right now, they are finding it harder to train because many facilities, such as pools and gyms, are closed due to the pandemic. They are glad that they now have time to make up some of the training they are missing. U.S. swimmer Lilly King told fans through social media that having one more year to train will help make her an even better athlete.