TOKYO, Japan - The International Olympic Committee and Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee have today released a joint statement announcing the postponement of this year's Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games to "a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021" in light of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.

The tennis Olympic competition was due to be held between 25 July and 2 August at the Ariake Tennis Park in Tokyo. However, following a conference call today led by IOC president Thomas Bach and Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan, it was concluded that this summer's dates were no longer feasible.

"The unprecedented and unpredictable spread of the outbreak has seen the situation in the rest of the world deteriorating," read the statement. "Yesterday, the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said that the COVID-19 pandemic is "accelerating". There are more than 375,000 cases now recorded worldwide and in nearly every country, and their number is growing by the hour.

"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 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 only other times the modern Olympic Games have broken the competition's four-year cycle were in 1916, 1940 and 1944, when all three editions were cancelled due to World War 1 and World War 2.

The announcement follows the official suspension of the WTA, ATP and ITF Tours until 7 June.

In a statement, the International Tennis Federation expressed its support for the decision to postpone the Games until next year.

ITF president David Haggerty said: “The global health situation continues to evolve at an extraordinary pace and 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.

“The ITF supports this decision and will continue to collaborate fully with the IOC and the IPC going forward to 2021. We look forward to seeing all athletes, volunteers and fans when it is safe for us to meet and participate at our best at the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.”