France’s 110m hurdler Pascal Martinot-Lagarde says a postponement of Olympics is the only fair solution. Reuters
Olympic chiefs acknowledged on Wednesday there was no “ideal” solution to staging the Tokyo Olympics amid a backlash from athletes as the deadly coronavirus pandemic swept the globe.
“This is an exceptional situation which requires exceptional solutions,” an International Olympic Committee spokesperson said after criticism from top athletes that they were being forced to take health risks should the July 24-Aug.9 Games go ahead as scheduled during the COVID-19 outbreak.
“The IOC is committed to finding a solution with the least negative impact for the athletes, while protecting the integrity of the competition and the athletes’ health.
“No solution will be ideal in this situation, and this is why we are counting on the responsibility and solidarity of the athletes.”
Olympic pole vault champion Katerina Stefanidi and British heptathlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson had earlier both voiced concerns after the IOC said it was “fully committed” to running the Games as scheduled from July 24.
Stefanidi, one of Greece’s most prominent athletes, was scheduled to hand the ceremonial flame to Japanese officials before the Greek leg of the torch relay was scrapped over COVID-19, which has 194,000 cases with 7,873 deaths, across 150 countries and territories as of 0900 GMT Wednesday.
“The IOC wants us to keep risking our health, our family’s health and public health to train every day?” she tweeted.
“You are putting us in danger right now, today, not in 4 months.”
On Tuesday, minutes before the IOC statement, the Euro 2020 football tournament was delayed for a year, bowing to the crisis that has paralysed Europe and drastically curtailed international travel.
Olympic qualifying tournaments are among the swathe of sports events that have been cancelled or postponed, with only 57 per cent of athletes booking their places so far.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Stefanidi. “What about team sports that have to train together? What about swimming? What about gymnastics that they touch the same objects?
“There is zero consideration of the risk they are putting us in right now.”
Johnson-Thompson, the world heptathlon champion, criticised the IOC for telling athletes to train “as best they can”, saying it was at odds with stringent government health measures.
“I feel under pressure to train and keep the same routine which is impossible,” she wrote on Twitter.
“It’s difficult (to) approach the season when everything has changed in the lead-up apart from the ultimate deadline,” added the Briton.
Doubts are increasingly being expressed about holding the Olympics on time, after the outbreak that first exploded in China spread to Asia and then worldwide.
On Wednesday an Olympic gymnastics qualifier in Tokyo, doubling as a test event, became the latest competition to be cancelled.
A day earlier, the deputy head of Japan’s Olympic committee said he had tested positive for coronavirus.
But the IOC insisted “there is no need for any drastic decisions at this stage”, adding that “any speculation at this moment would be counter-productive”.
Hayley Wickenheiser, a Canadian IOC member with four ice hockey gold medals, warned “this crisis is bigger than even the Olympics”.
“From an athlete perspective, I can only imagine and try to empathise with the anxiety and heartbreak athletes are feeling right now,” she said in a statement.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said on Sunday after an emergency meeting that it is stepping up its "scenario planning" for the 2020 Games due to start on July 24, including a possible postponement.
The development of a coronavirus vaccine or treatment will be key to allowing the postponed Tokyo 2020 games to open in a year's time, organising committee president Yoshiro Mori said Wednesday.
"In order to restore sense of safety, I will get the coronavirus pandemic, which has raged worldwide and is now severely affecting Japan, under control as soon as possible,” Suga said. "I will stand at the frontline of the battle while I get the people's cooperation."
The strategic partnership strengthens both parties’ commitment to supporting the nation’s athletes, broadening the sports horizons, and enhancing the country’s leadership position globally.
Same views were echoed by NBA commissioner Adam Silver, who added: “Our data shows we have fans coming in from 59 countries for these games. This continues the notion of promoting Abu Dhabi as a hub for great sporting events.
Mohammad Rizwan underlined why he will be a key weapon for Pakistan at the Twenty20 World Cup, top-scoring in a 21-run win over Bangladesh in Christchurch on Friday.
Qatar has ordered most government employees to work from home during next month's soccer World Cup while schools will have reduced hours two weeks before the tournament before shutting as the country prepares for a big influx of visitors.