Olympic chiefs vowed to keep their flame lit as a “beacon of hope to the world” after postponing the Tokyo Games until next year.
The decision to delay the five-ringed circus until next summer was broadly welcomed by athletes but left two-time taekwondo champion Jade Jones “truly gutted”.
“You give your heart and soul to something for four years then for it not to go ahead is just horrible,” she said.
“Obviously health comes first, and my biggest priority right now is protecting my family and my loved ones, and doing everything I can do to help save the lives of others.
“But as an elite athlete, it is very demotivating and mentally tough. I’m a very positive person but the idea, right now, of having to devote myself to another year’s slog is a very difficult one.”
Never in its 124-year modern history has the Olympics been delayed, though it was cancelled three times due to world wars.
But as Paralympic boss Andrew Parsons spelt out: “Sport is not the most important thing right now, preserving human life is.”
British Olympic Association chief executive Andy Anson agreed: “It would have been unthinkable for us to continue to prepare for an Olympic Games at a time the nation – and the world no less – is enduring great hardship. A postponement is the right decision."
In these unique circumstances it has been decided to keep the Olympic flame lit until the Games are rescheduled, almost certainly in July and August next year.
Bosses decided the Tokyo Games should “stand as a beacon of hope to the world during these troubled times.”
In so doing they agreed that the Olympic flame would remain in Japan and “become the light at the end of the tunnel in which the world finds itself at present”.
Greg Rutherford, Olympic long jump champion at London 2012, said delaying the showpiece was the only option.
“Everyone deserves the right to fight for their place on the podium,” he wrote on Instagram. “With the situation the current crop of athletes were facing, it wouldn’t have been fair to host the Olympics this year.”
A philosophical Jones agreed: “At least this means we can sit back and chill for a little while, and we don’t have to train like psychos and do stupid stuff in our house.”
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