LONDON, March 24 (Reuters) - Athletes, national associations and sporting federations from around the world reacted with a mixture of sadness, relief and goodwill to the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on Tuesday because of the coronavirus pandemic.
After weeks of speculation and mounting criticism at the delay in announcing a postponement, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and IOC president Thomas Bach agreed the event would be rescheduled for the summer of 2021 at the latest.
It is the first break in the four-year cycle for the summer Olympics since the 1940 and 1944 Games were cancelled because of World War Two. Here are some reactions to the decision:
IOC President Thomas Bach:
"This Olympic flame will be the light at the end of the tunnel."
International Paralympic Committee President Andrew Parsons:
"Postponing the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games as a result of the global COVID-19 outbreak is absolutely the right thing to do. The health and well-being of human life must always be our number one priority and staging a sport event of any kind during this pandemic is simply not possible.
"Sport is not the most important thing right now, preserving human life is."
U.S. Olympic and Paralympic CEO Sarah Hirshland in a message to athletes:
"Despite the feeling of eventuality that so many of us have felt in the lead up to this moment -- my heart breaks for you, your fellow athletes around the world, our friends at Tokyo 2020, the people of Japan, and all who are impacted by this global pandemic and the decision to postpone the Tokyo Games 2020.
"This summer was supposed to be a culmination of your hard work and life's dream, but taking a step back from competition to care for our communities and each other is the right thing to do. Your moment will wait until we can gather again safely."
Andy Andson, CEO British Olympic Association (BOA):
"It is with profound sadness that we accept the postponement, but in all consciousness it is the only decision we can support, in light of the devastating impact COVID-19.
"It is time for them to stop thinking about Tokyo 2020 for now and be home and safe with their families."
"It is what athletes want and we believe this decision will give all athletes, technical officials and volunteers some respite and certainty in these unprecedented and uncertain times.
"In light of this announcement, we will also expedite our current review of the Olympic qualification system, in cooperation with the IOC, and release any changes to the process as soon as possible so athletes know where they stand."
World swimming body FINA, whose 2021 aquatics world championships are scheduled for July 16-Aug 1:
"We will now work closely with the host organising committee of the 2021 FINA World Championships in Fukuoka, with the Japan Swimming Federation and with the Japanese public authorities, in order to determine flexibility around the dates of the competition, if necessary and in agreement with the IOC."
Alejandro Blanco, Spanish Olympic Committee president:
"The IOC has given us some good news by announcing that the Olympic Games will be postponed. It will allow all athletes to be able to compete in equal conditions and will safeguard their health, just as we have been demanding since this crisis began."
Alfons Hormann, President of the German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB):
"It confirms to the world population that everything in sports is also being done to bring the global pandemic under control as best as possible and as soon as possible."
Statement from World Rugby:
"We look forward to working closely together in a spirit of partnership with the IOC, the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee and all other stakeholders towards the rescheduling of the Games and our belief from the outstanding Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan, is that the hosts will come out of this adversity stronger and more committed than ever before to deliver an exceptional Games."
International Tennis Federation president David Haggerty:
"We are faced with an unprecedented situation that calls for responsible leadership and making informed decisions. Whilst this is a bitter disappointment for all those who have been preparing and training hard, we all understand that the protection of human life, health and safety, comes first."
International Canoe Federation president Jose Perurena:
"We congratulate the IOC, the Japanese Government and Tokyo 2020 organisers for making this brave but essential decision."
British Swimming CEO Jack Buckner:
"Were (our athletes) attempting to train for the biggest sporting event of the quadrennial they would be putting the health of themselves and those around them at risk, which I'm sure everyone would agree would be both dangerous and extremely selfish."
Russian Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin to TASS news agency:
"We respect this joint decision by the IOC and the leadership of Japan. In these difficult times, the health of the athletes, organizers, representatives of all countries and IOC members is at the forefront. We will set up our cooperation on the training process with national federations."
Athletics Kenya president Jackson Tuwei:
"It is good, at least it is now clear. When things were not very clear, it was difficult to advise the athletes what to do. Sometimes when you prepare and nothing happens, it is also very demoralizing."
Italy's Olympic track cycling champion Elia Viviani:
"Postponing the Olympics to 2021 is the best decision for me. Today we are all struggling with a much bigger problem and although August still seems far away, the security for such a big event was very difficult. See you in 2021!"
Canada's Olympic wrestling champion Erica Wiebe:
"Utter relief. Excitement. Uncertainty. We're in unprecedented times. We'll be more ready than ever in 2021 and wearing the maple leaf with more pride than I thought possible." (Reporting by Martyn Herman Editing by Christian Radnedge)