Clamour grows to postpone Tokyo Games

CONCERNS: The right and responsible thing to do is to prioritize everyone's health and safety.
CONCERNS: The right and responsible thing to do is to prioritize everyone's health and safety.

Los Angeles - The United States, long an Olympic swimming powerhouse, won 33 medals in the Rio Olympic pool in 2016

By Reuters

Published: Sat 21 Mar 2020, 6:17 PM

Last updated: Sat 21 Mar 2020, 10:26 PM

  Calls from sporting organisations for this year’s Tokyo Olympics to be postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic gathered pace on Saturday with USA Track and Field (USATF) and Brazil’s Olympic Committee the latest to join the throng.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Tokyo 2020 organisers still insist the July 24-Aug. 9 showpiece will go ahead as planned despite Europe and the U.S. struggling to control the spread of the flu-like virus.
Their optimism that the show will go on, however, is looking increasingly out-of-step with countries in lockdown and athletes around the world unable to train.
In a letter to United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC) chief executive Sarah Hirshland, USATF urged USOPC to use its voice to “speak up for athletes”.
Chief executive Max Siegel said the USTAF “understood” the ramification of postponing the Games for the first time ever in peace time, but that moving forward would not be in the best interest of athletes.
“We acknowledge that there are no perfect answers, and that this is a very complex and difficult decision, but this position (to postpone the Games) at least provides our athletes with the comfort of knowing that they will have adequate time to properly prepare themselves physically, mentally and emotionally to be able to participate in a safe and successful Olympic Games,” he wrote.
USA Swimming wrote to USOPC on Friday calling for a delay of one year, CEO Tim Hinchey saying “we have watched our athletes’ worlds be turned upside down”.
The chairman of UK Athletics said last week the Olympics should be called off to spare athletes the stress of trying to train in the grip of a pandemic which has killed around 12,000 people since the virus surfaced in China.
Brazil’s Olympic chief Paulo Wanderley echoed those thoughts on Saturday, saying athletes would not be able to arrive in Tokyo in top form because of the impact of the crisis.
“It’s clear that right now, maintaining the Games for this year will impede (the athletes) dream from being realised,” he said.
Suggesting a year’s delay, he said the IOC was experienced in dealing with obstacles, citing the cancellations in 1916, 1940 and 1944 because of World Wars and the political boycotts of the Games in Moscow in 1980 and Los Angeles in 1984.
Norway’s Sports Federation and Olympic and Paralympic Committee (NIF) said it had written to IOC chief Thomas Bach calling for the Games to be postponed, even if the pandemic is under control in Japan by the summer.
“Given the highly unresolved situation in Norway and in large parts of the world, it is neither justifiable or desirable to send Norwegian athletes to the Olympics or Paralympics in Tokyo until the world community has put this pandemic behind them,” sports president Berit Kjøll said.
The Sport and Rights Alliance (SRA) and the World Players Association (WPA) said a “deep review and broader consultation” with athletes was required regarding the decision over whether the Games could run as planned.
“The IOC needs to elevate its dialogue with the full range of those most affected beyond sponsors and governments to an open multi-stakeholder process that brings to the table as equals player associations as the representatives of athletes and others most at risk,” WPA executive director Brendan Schwab said in a statement.

More news from