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Covid-19 may delay Tokyo Olympics: Here's what athletes are saying

French Athletics Federation president said he did not understand why the IOC was refusing to postpone the Tokyo Olympics 2020; Britain's 200-m world champion has called IOC 'irresponsible'

BS Web Team  |  New Delhi 

Tokyo Olympics
A man walks past a large banner promoting the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Photo: AP | PTI

Amid growing concerns over the pandemic, or Covid-19, the International Olympic Committee has decided to take a call on the fate of the Tokyo Olymics 2020 by mid-April. However, Tokyo bound athletes have been going through “enormous ambiguity” and for some athletes, the IOC's announcement is too little, too late.

"So wait... does this mean that athletes face up to another FOUR weeks of finding ways to fit in training — whilst potentially putting ourselves, coaches, support staff and loved ones at risk just to find out they were going to be postponed anyway," tweeted Britain's Dina Asher-Smith, the world 200m champion.

"So irresponsible," she added. "I was really hoping to hear an announcement that they'd postponed it to 2021 this week."

US Olympic committee on IOC’s decision on Tokyo Olympics

Meanwhile, the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee has welcomed the IOC’s pledge to decide on possible postponement in four weeks and termed it a “progress”.

"The progress reflected in (Sunday's) IOC update to the global athlete community is an important step in providing clarity, but our athlete community continues to face enormous ambiguity surrounding the 2020 Games in Tokyo," USOPC chief executive Sarah Hirshland said in a joint statement issued with the USOPC'S athlete advisory council chair Han Xiao.

"Having spent countless hours communicating with IOC leadership, our peers around the world, our NGBs and the athletes we serve, we know the difficult obstacles ahead and we are all appreciative that the IOC has heard our concerns and needs, and is working to address them as quickly as possible."

The IOC has come under mounting pressure to postpone the Tokyo Olympics, scheduled to run from July 24 to August 9.

"Every day counts," Hirshland and Han said. "We remain steadfast in our recommendation that Team USA athletes continue to heed the advice of public health officials and prioritize their health and wellness over all else. At the same time, we are eager to continue to explore alternatives to ensure all athletes have a robust and fulfilling Olympic and Paralympic experience, regardless of when that can safely occur. Together we will find solutions that keep the spirit of the Games alive.”

Olympic flame in Japan
Olympic flame in Japan. Photo: Reuters
French athletics chief joins call for Olympic postponement

The president of the French Athletics Federation on Sunday said he did not understand why the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was refusing to postpone the Tokyo in the face of the pandemic.

Andre Giraud joined a swelling chorus of objections that the French National Olympic Committee (CNOSF) must "take a stand".

He said that the IOC should already be thinking of what he called "Plan C", a postponement to 2021.

"It cannot be accepted that the IOC is not listening to the number one Olympic sport," Giraud said.

"Everyone agrees that the Games cannot be held on the dates planned." "If the crisis is contained by the end of May, we can envisage a postponement of the Games to the autumn. But Plan C would be a six-month or one-year postponement. How can we bring together 11,000 athletes in less than four months in the Olympic village? The athletes are in a stressful situation and we need to reassure them. We can't wait any longer.”

Giraud also called CNOSF President Denis Masseglie to act.

"I appeal to the CNOSF to take action with the IOC. We need a national position of solidarity," he said.

"At the Games, the French team is under the CNOSF banner. The responsibility at national level therefore lies with the CNOSF President to listen to his federations and take a stand."

Track legend Carl Lewis wants postponed for two years

Nine-time Olympic track and field champion Carl Lewis says he wants a delay of up to two years for the Tokyo but rejects any bid to cancel them outright.

"I just think it's really difficult for an athlete to prepare, to train, to keep their motivation if there's complete uncertainty. That's the hardest thing. Because it's a health issue, it's beyond everyone's control. I think most athletes are accepting that”, said Lewis to Houston television station KRIV.

Many athletes have struggled to continue training while being forced to stay home to avoid spreading the deadly virus.

"The athletes cannot prepare for an Olympic Games if they don't have an Olympic Trials, if they don't have competition," Lewis said.

Lewis called upon the International Olympic Committee to consider pushing back the Olympics to 2022, after the scheduled 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

"I think a more comfortable situation would be two years and put it in the Olympic year with the Winter Olympics and then make it kind of a celebratory Olympic year.

USA swimming body calls for postponement

USA Swimming said they wanted the Games postponed. They were soon joined by France's swimming federation and the Norwegian Olympic Committee as well as likely competitors.

The US and Spanish athletics federations have also asked for a postponement. Sebastian Coe, the head of World Track and Field, hinted that he was leaning that way.

"I don't think we should have the Olympic Games at all costs," said Coe, who ran the 2012 London Games.

"A decision on the Olympic Games may become very obvious very quickly.

"There are some athletes who are right on the edge of retiring that that may hurt, but in reality, you have to focus on what (will best serve) the masses."

First Published: Mon, March 23 2020. 14:13 IST