OXFORDSHIRE'S Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls will have to put their dreams on hold after it was announced the Games will be postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A joint statement from the International Olympic Committee and the Tokyo 2020 organising committee confirmed the news, following a conference call earlier today.

The Games - which had been due to get under way on July 24 - will not now take place in 2020, but will happen no later than the summer of 2021.

"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."

Windsurfer Tom Squires, from Kingston Bagpuize, had already qualified.

A host of rowers with Oxfordshire connections competed at the British trials earlier this month, while triple jumper Nathan Douglas and wheelchair tennis player Jordanne Whiley were also targeting Tokyo.

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."