Players’ body, athletics federations call for postponement of Games - GulfToday

Players’ body, athletics federations call for postponement of Games


A group of students from Uruguay poses for a souvenir picture on the Olympic rings set outside the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on Saturday. Associated Press

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) should review plans to go ahead with the Tokyo Olympics during the coronavirus pandemic and ensure dialogue with athletes, the Sport and Rights Alliance (SRA) and the World Players Association (WPA) said on Saturday.

The flu-like virus, which originated in China last year, has infected over 274,000 people globally and caused more than 11,000 deaths. It has also brought the sporting world to a standstill.

The IOC and Tokyo organisers have maintained that the July 24-Aug. 9 Games should go ahead as scheduled but WPA executive director Brendan Schwab said the IOC must consult more athletes before making decisions.

“With the world in a pandemic, holding mega-sporting events including the Olympic Games demands a deep review and broader consultations than are occurring now, including with athletes and their representatives,” Schwab said in a statement.

“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.”

Thousands of Olympic hopefuls have been left in limbo with many qualifying events around the world postponed or cancelled. Minky Worden, the director of global initiatives at Human Rights Watch which is part of the SRA coalition of global non-governmental organisations, said sports bodies had to be more transparent at this time.

“The virus is impacting the health, human rights, employment and careers of athletes but also the well-being of millions whose livelihoods are dependent on the sports industry and its supply chain,” Worden said.

“Sports bodies have a responsibility to lower risks to athletes, insist on the free flow of information, and conduct themselves in an open and transparent way.”

US athletics’ governing body joined calls for the Tokyo Olympics to be postponed, urging United States Olympic chiefs to push for the games to be delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In a letter to the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC), USA Track and Field chief Max Siegel said forging ahead with Olympic preparations “would not be in the best interest of our athletes.”

The USATF call for a postponement echoed a similar request by USA Swimming on Friday after the USOPC said it was too soon to postpone the July 24-August 9 Games.

Siegel urged the USOPC to support a postponement, citing the health and safety of athletes as well as disruption to training and competition schedules caused by the COVID-19 crisis.

“Our athletes are under tremendous pressure stress and anxiety, and their mental health and wellness is among our highest priorities,” Siegel said.

“The right and responsible thing to do is to prioritize everyone’s health and safety and appropriately recognize the toll this difficult situation has, and continues to take, on our athletes and their Olympic Games preparations.

“For those reasons, USATF is respectfully requesting that the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) advocate to the IOC for the postponement of the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.”

Siegel acknowledged that there “were no perfect answers” to what was a “very complex and difficult decision.”

“But this position 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, and that they can shift their focus toward taking care of themselves and their families,” he said.

“We urge the USOPC, as a leader within the Olympic movement, to use its voice and speak up for the athletes.”

‘Olympics cannot go ahead’

The Tokyo Olympics should be called off to spare athletes the “stress” of trying to train in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, UK Athletics chairman Nic Coward said on Friday.

In the week the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Tokyo 2020 organisers insisted the Games will proceed as planned, Coward became the highest-profile UK sports administrator to say the Olympics could not go ahead. Most Olympic athletes in Britain have found training facilities closed and are being advised to avoid going out.

When asked whether it was now time to call off the Games in an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Coward said: “Yeah, it seems to be absolutely what has to happen.

“And look, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that these very personal (athlete) experiences take time to come through to the IOC level. I can understand that. But as governments take action to protect their people — which includes closing down facilities on which athletes and para-athletes rely — and as that message is coming through more clearly now... I mean, we’re only a week in this country.”


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