Athletes who had already qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics before they were postponed will keep their places when the showpiece takes place in 2021, according to sources.

Around 57 per cent of the 11,000 scheduled participants for Tokyo had already made sure of taking part when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) pushed the Games back to 2021 due to the coronavirus on Tuesday.

The IOC and international sports federations held a teleconference on Thursday where it was decided to respect the qualification process, the sources told AFP.

Notably, the quadrennial event was postponed, in view of the coronavirus pandemic that has brought the entire sporting calendar to a standstill. Many high-profile tournaments including the Euro 2020, English Premier League, Serie A, La Liga, Indian Premier League and the NBA had already been cancelled or postponed.

However, despite the health concerns, Japan was initially adamant to keep the Tokyo Olympics on schedule and consequently, the sporting fest was the most prominent tournament not to be rescheduled in view of the global health crisis but it was later officially announced that the Olympics have indeed been postponed.

Prior to the confirmation, countries like Canada and Australia had already declared that they would be sending their contingents to the Olympics, unless it is postponed to 2021, keeping in mind the best interest of athletes amid the coronavirus crisis that the world is continuing to battle.

The dreaded virus has already infected more than 5,09,000 people worldwide while also claiming over 23,000 lives.

(With inputs from AFP via PTI)