Olympic Flame to Stay Lit in Tokyo as 'Beacon of Hope' Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistMarch 25, 2020

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic flame is displayed outside Fukushima railway station in Fukushima Prefecture on March 24, 2020. - The Olympic torch relay, due to begin on March 25 from a symbolic site in Fukushima, will proceed as scheduled but organisers said they would re-assess in the coming days given the
PHILIP FONG/Getty Images

While the 2020 Games in Tokyo were officially postponed because of concerns about the coronavirus, the Olympic flame will remain lit as a symbol of hope during the pandemic.

"The Olympic Games in Tokyo could stand as a beacon of hope to the world during these troubled times and that the Olympic flame could be the light at the end of the tunnel in which the world finds itself at present," the International Olympic Committee and Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee said in a statement.

The two organizations also released a joint statement Tuesday explaining the decision to postpone the Games:

"In the present circumstances and based on the information provided by the WHO today, the IOC President and the Prime Minister of Japan have concluded that the Games of the XXXII Olympiad in Tokyo must be rescheduled to a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021, to safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games and the international community."

The decision came after IOC committee member Dick Pound told Christine Brennan of USA Today on Monday the Games were going to be postponed.

In addition to the uncertainty about how rampant the coronavirus will be come July 24 when the Olympics were scheduled to start, many athletes across the globe have paused training regimens in the crucial months leading up to the Games.

A postponed or canceled Olympics is a rare event, as it last happened in 1944 because of World War II. The 1916 and 1940 Games were also canceled because of the two World Wars.

The Olympics were one of the last holdouts in a sports world that has been profoundly altered by the coronavirus. The NBA, NHL, MLS and MLB all put their seasons on hold in the United States, while Europe's most notable soccer leagues did the same.

The NCAA canceled the men's and women's basketball tournaments, among other winter and spring championships, while events such as the Kentucky Derby and Masters were postponed.

As of Tuesday, the World Health Organization confirmed there have been more than 375,000 cases of the coronavirus across the globe that have led to more than 16,000 deaths.