The International Olympic Committee has confirmed the postponement of the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games until 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A joint statement from the IOC and the Tokyo 2020 organising committee confirmed the news, following a conference call on Tuesday.

"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 statement read.

"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 IOC president Thomas Bach, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo 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.

Organisers and the IOC had both long insisted the Games would go ahead as planned from 24 July but, as the virus spread, opposition to the Games mounted, forcing them on Sunday to say they were considering postponement in a four-week consultation period.

That, however, partly backfired as athletes and national Olympic committees demanded an immediate decision to plan their year.

The Canadian Olympic and Paralympic committees had already announced they would not compete in Tokyo this summer, while the Australians had told their athletes to prepare for a postponement to the summer of 2021.

Team USA said it had surveyed its athletes with nearly 93% of the 1,780 respondents preferring to see the Games postponed rather than outright cancelled, while 68% said the event could not be fairly competed if continued as scheduled.

The Germany Olympic Committee said a postponement decision was "long overdue".

Moving the Games will carry some cost, but it is not anticipated there will be a major clamour from sponsorship and broadcast partners.

Games venues - already built at an estimated cost of over €12bn - will still be utilised if the event does manage to go ahead in 2021.

The Olympics have never been delayed in their 124-year modern history, though they were cancelled altogether in 1916, 1940 and 1944 during the two world wars. Cold War boycotts disrupted the Moscow and Los Angeles Games in 1980 and 1984. 

The Olympic Federation of Ireland welcomed the decision to postpone.

The organisation's chief executive Peter Sherrard said: "This is the right call given the times that we are in. 

"Nonetheless, we recognise it was a difficult call for Japan to make, and we are looking forward to working with the IOC and countries all over the world to make Tokyo 2021 a poignant moment for the whole world once these difficult times are over." 

Paralympics Ireland chief executive Miriam Malone echoed those sentiments, saying: "This was an unprecedented situation for the organisers of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic and Olympic Games to face and postponement is the only safe option to protect athletes and supporters alike.

"Our guiding principle has always been the protection of our Irish athletes, their health and their safety, and I believe that this decision safeguards our athletes in line with this principle. We are already rolling out our contingency plans for athletes and we will do everything in our power to ensure that our Irish athletes will be able to adapt as seamlessly as possible to the new arrangements when they are confirmed."

World Athletics said it welcomed the decision and would do create an outdoor season of one-day meetings later in 2020, if safe to do so, so that athletes will have access to competitions in every region.

WA said it  expedite a review of the Olympic qualification system and release any changes to the process as soon as possible so athletes know where they stand.

It also stated that next year's scheduled World Championships host Oregon would be willing to host those games on alternative dates, including 2022, to avoid a clash with the rescheduled Olympics.

The coronavirus outbreak has raged around the world since early this year, infecting nearly 380,000 people and wrecking sports events from Euro 2020 to Formula One.

The Canadian Olympic and Paralympic committees had already announced they would not compete in Tokyo this summer, while the Australians had told their athletes to prepare for a postponement to the summer of 2021.

Team USA said it had surveyed its athletes with nearly 93% of the 1,780 respondents preferring to see the Games postponed rather than outright cancelled, while 68% said the event could not be fairly competed if continued as scheduled.

The Germany Olympic Committee said a postponement decision was "long overdue".

Moving the Games will carry some cost, but it is not anticipated there will be a major clamour from sponsorship and broadcast partners.

Games venues - already built at an estimated cost of over €12bn - will still be utilised if the event does manage to go ahead in 2021.