BRITISH Olympic chiefs have backed the decision to postpone both the Olympic Games and Paralympics until 2021 due to the global coronavirus pandemic.

The decision means that Wiltshire athletes including high jumper Tom Gale and sprinter Danny Talbot’s Tokyo dreams will be put on hold until the summer of 2021 at the latest.

The Games had been due to start on July 24, with the Paralympics little over a month later.

Team GB had been considering withdrawing from the Olympics had they gone ahead as planned, a move which would have followed that of the Canadian and Australian contingents.

The decision to delay was praised in a joint statement from the British Olympic Association, British Paralympic Association and elite sports funding body UK Sport, who said athletes’ ability to train and prepare had been “compromised irreparably” by the virus.

BOA chief executive Andy Anson said: “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 is having on our nation, our communities and our families.

“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.”

“Alongside UK Sport and the BPA, we have consulted with the national governing bodies of summer Olympic and Paralympic sports and with athlete representative groups, including our athletes’ commissions and the British athletes’ commission.

“It is with their input and support that we have a unanimous view that the impact of Covid-19 on athletes’ training and preparation means their regimes are now compromised irreparably. It is time for them to stop thinking about Tokyo 2020 for now and be home and safe with their families.

“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.”

A conference call was held ahead of the postponement on Tuesday between the International Olympic Committee and the Tokyo 2020 organising including Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, among others.

A joint statement read: “In the present circumstances and based on the information provided by the WHO (World Health Organisation) 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 leaders agreed that 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 become the light at the end of the tunnel in which the world finds itself at present.

“Therefore, it was agreed that the Olympic flame will stay in Japan. It was also agreed that the Games will keep the name Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.”

The conference call featured Bach, Abe, plus Tokyo 2020 organising committee president Yoshiro Mori, Olympics minister Seiko Hashimoto, the governor of Tokyo Yuriko Koike, the chair of the IOC’s co-ordination commission John Coates, IOC director general Christophe De Kepper and IOC Olympic Games executive director Christophe Dubi.

UK Sport chief executive Sally Munday added: “We welcome today’s decision from the IOC, IPC and Japan that the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games will be postponed.

“Given the unprecedented global challenge we face, today’s news means that athletes, their coaches and support staff can now fully focus on what really matters at this terribly difficult time, keeping themselves and their families safe.

“We are working closely with government to ensure we can effectively support sports and their athletes through this distressing period.”