Now is time to be positive and prepare, says JOC head

Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) President Yasuhiro Yamashita speaks to media during a news conference after the announcement of the games' postponement to 2021, in Tokyo, Japan March 25, 2020. REUTERS/Naoki Ogura

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese Olympic Committee President Yasuhiro Yamashita said on Wednesday the decision to postpone the Tokyo Games due to the coronavirus pandemic came quicker than expected but he wanted to make sure the event was a success after the one-year delay.

The Olympics were postponed on Tuesday to 2021, the first such delay in the Games’ 124-year modern history, as the coronavirus crisis wrecked the world’s last sporting showpiece still standing this year.

Pressure had been building on the International Olympic Committee with some athletes and sporting bodies angry that a seemingly inevitable decision had taken so long but Yamashita told reporters it was now time to be positive and prepare.

Yamashita, a 62-year-old former judoka and 1984 Los Angeles Games gold medalist, also said that a one-year postponement was better than a two-year delay due to the qualification process.

The IOC’s decision to postpone came faster than he expected but he respected it from the perspective of achieving “safe and complete” Games.

“I am soon becoming 63, and there’s so many unimaginable or unexpected things in life,” said Yamashita, who missed out on the 1980 Moscow Olympics due to Japan’s boycott.

“I’ve experienced the Moscow Olympics and this time is turning into a situation like that.”

He told reporters he would approach the postponed Games with a “fresh mind, not giving up”.

“I want to go through this challenge heading into next year.”

Reporting by Ju-min Park; Editing by Himani Sarkar/Peter Rutherford