COVID-19: Countries, Federations Canvass Global Support For Olympic Shift

  • Canada, Australia pull out
  • More countries to join soon
  • BOA eyes delay until 2021

BY VICTOR OSOWOCHI – With the coronavirus pandemic ravaging global economy and countries locking down daily, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is now facing near irresistible pressure to postpone the Tokyo Olympic Games this week.

Already, a growing number of athletes, governments and national federations are saying that rather than keep them in suspense until its mid-April deadline, the IOC should take a stand immediately to curtail the anxiety and concerns across the sporting world over COVID-19 outbreak

However, the IOC President, Thomas Bach, says the next four weeks will be quite significant and challenging in dealing with the complex legal and financial problems before taking a decision on this year’s Olympics’ status.

In the event of a postponement, it would be first time in the Games 124-year modern history that such an action will be taken by the Olympic family. However, it is on record that the Games were cancelled in 1916, 1940 and 1944. The three Olympiads that had to pass without a celebration of the Games because of war were: the 1916 Games cancelled because of World War I, and the Summer and Winter Games of 1940 and 1944 cancelled due to the World War II. 

So far, emerging reports indicate that opposition to holding the event in July has continued to grow sharply in recent days, with US Track and Field as well as the UK Athletics among those calling for a delay. Similarly, Brazil, Norway and Slovenia have also urged the IOC to consider postponement but only stopping short of threatening to boycott the Games

On his part, Head of Safety at the London 2012 Games, Lawrence Waterman, has fully endorsed calls for the Games to be shelved, noting that the need for precautions against coronavirus such as physical distancing and self-isolation means groups of people cannot be safely assembled to test the venues for crowd control.

“These games need to be postponed and the sooner the IOC and the Japanese government face up to this the better. It’s simply not safe to put the Games on during a global pandemic,” Waterman said.

According to him, “People’s safety and health should come before the costs of delaying contracts.”

IOC member, Dick Pound okays delay

Insider and veteran IOC member, Dick Pound, told USA Today that the Games would be postponed, likely to 2021, saying; “The parameters going forward have not been determined but the Games are not going to start on 24 July, that much I know.”

Pound said the IOC would announce its next steps soon. “It will come in stages. We will postpone this and begin to deal with all the ramifications of moving this, which are immense.”

In the heat of ongoing discussions over the coronavirus, the British Olympic Association (BOA) has slated a meeting for today, Tuesday, March 24, and is expected to add its voice to mounting calls for a delay in the Games until next year.

Already, BOA’s chair, Hugh Robertson, has admitted that if the virus continues as predicted: “I don’t think there is any way we can send a team”.

For now, there seems little alternative for the IOC with so many athletes unable to train properly because facilities are shut and countries in lockdown.

Canada, Australia out!

Already. Canada and Australia have confirmed that they will not be sending athletes to Tokyo this summer, while the British and French governments have urged the IOC to make a quick decision.

That view is supported by British Olympic chiefs, especially given many of the 600 Team Great Britain (GB) athletes who are due to go to the Olympics and Paralympics are unable to train as planned. Robertson said: “We can’t see any way that this can go ahead as things are constituted at the moment and I expect we will be joining Canada and Australia shortly.”

Pushing back the Games until 2021 is by far the most likely option and Shinzo Abe, the Japanese Prime Minister, seems to have conceded that postponement is now a possibility if the Games could not be held in their “complete form”.With additional reports from The Guardian

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