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Online cycling workouts proving a hit

LONDON • Cyclists deprived of their weekend ride out with friends and fitness fanatics who cannot get to the gym are turning to online cycling workouts to help them stay in shape during the coronavirus shutdown.

With professional racing closed down in Europe and club cyclists being advised against riding in large groups, the Zwift indoor training platform has seen a manic few weeks, according to spokesman Chris Snook.

Some of the best-known professional road cyclists have been making the most of their unexpected spare time to lead out virtual rides on Zwift’s fictionalised Watopia course, as amateurs join in from their home-based smart bike trainers.

“It’s providing a unique opportunity for cycling fans to not only ride alongside their heroes, but to ask questions,” Snook told Reuters.

“Guests have included (2018 Tour de France champion) Geraint Thomas, (German rider) Andre Greipel, (world champion) Annemiek van Vleuten and many more.”

Others who would normally prefer the gym have decided that it is time to buy a Peloton stationary bike, rather than risk going to group classes. These are the people who do not ride outdoors and so would not own a bike that they can transform into an indoor trainer.

“It seemed like a good opportunity for me to make an investment so I could exercise inside of my house, enjoy that exercise, and save money in the long term,” said Amanda Clare from San Francisco.

The 41-year-old normally works out at Barry’s Bootcamp but decided to drop that as the spread of the coronavirus forced people to stay home.

“I spend about US$500 (S$713 ) a month on Barry’s, so while the Peloton was an investment – it was $2,450 – that will be made up if I just move to working out on it,” she added.

Clare is crossing her fingers that the bike will be delivered as planned despite the disruption.

Jenn McCarron, 40, from Los Angeles has also decided to trade up by getting a Peloton bike after subscribing to its online classes for eight months.

RIDE AND CHAT

It’s providing a unique opportunity for cycling fans to not only ride alongside their heroes, but to ask questions.

CHRIS SNOOK , Zwift spokesman, on fans being able to chat with champs on the apps. 

VALUE INVESTMENT

It seemed like a good opportunity for me to make an investment so I could exercise inside of my house, enjoy that exercise…

AMANDA CLARE , gym goer, on why she bought a Peloton stationary bike.

“What made me pull the trigger was quarantine and loss of control over my fitness routine, which 100 per cent takes place outside of my apartment,” she said.

“When the quarantine started happening last Friday, I started getting this low-level burn of urgency, like ‘wow, if we go in for two months I need that level of cardio’, and not just that – the community and the connectivity around it.”

Criminal defence lawyer Liza Rosado of San Juan, Puerto Rico is waiting for a Peloton bike that she ordered in the middle of last month. “Now that I’m gonna be stuck at home, I really wish I had it here,” said the 35-year-old.

Still, she is keeping things in perspective in light of the pandemic, which has led to a curfew across Puerto Rico and shuttered all non-essential businesses.

“I’m not going to be angry or mad about it – people are losing their jobs,” she said. “My clients are in jail. We don’t know what’s going to happen. We know they are one of the populations that’s most at risk (from Covid-19).”

Back in Britain, the British Cycling Race Series, starting this week, features eight 30-minute races in which amateurs and elite riders, often those self-isolating, can compete against each other from the safety of their own living room.

“We’re in an entirely unique situation that means there’ll be no racing for a while, but it’s important that we try to find some sense of normality in all this,” said British Cycling’s women’s endurance coach Emma Trott.

REUTERS

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Netball: Netball Super League play-offs called off

While the cancellation of the Netball Super League (NSL) two weeks before the competition wrapped up left teams disappointed, they also felt it was the best option amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Netball Singapore (NS) announced yesterday that the tournament, which was suspended indefinitely on Tuesday, would be aborted owing to the Covid-19 outbreak, making it the first major local sports competition to be called off.

The semi-finals, preliminary final and play-offs for fifth place were supposed to take place this weekend while the final was scheduled for next Saturday at Our Tampines Hub.

Mission Mannas vice-captain Vanessa Lee said: “There’s a lot of uncertainty as to when all this will end so if we’re just going to keep it to an open date and not know when it’ll take place, it’s going to be hard to train and prepare for it, so cancelling it is a good call.

“We’re all disappointed that it’s cancelled because we can’t complete what we started and we are only two weeks away from the final. But in light of the current situation, it’s the best thing to do.”

Mannas were set to play Sneakers Stingrays in today’s semi-finals.

The two round-robin stages started on Feb 8 and were completed last Sunday. With the season ending prematurely, Stingrays, who amassed 28 points, have been crowned champions, with Mission Mannas (18) runners-up and two-time defending champions Blaze Dolphins (16) finishing third.

Stingrays coach Goh Seck Tuck said: “Of course we always hope we can play till the last game and rightfully win the championship but we’ve shown that we have been quite consistent.

“It’s quite a shame that the whole team couldn’t complete it on a high note but in this present situation, it’s the best that can happen.”

Most of the games this season were played behind closed doors.

On Monday, the six international players who had joined the league in the second round were forced to fly back to their native Fiji following uncertainty over flights owing to the Covid-19 outbreak.

The NSL was then postponed indefinitely after the Ministry of Health announced on Tuesday that all sporting events, regardless of size, must be deferred or cancelled, with the measure taking effect until at least April 30.

However, NS decided to halt the competition completely, with chief executive Cyrus Medora saying: “While the current decision is that all sports stop until April 30, we understand that could very well be extended with the large number of Singapore citizens and long-term residents still to return.”

Other local events have also been disrupted by the virus, with the Singapore Premier League football competition, along with all its clubs’ training sessions, suspended on Tuesday.

The Singapore Swimming Association (SSA) has also postponed the May 14-17 Singapore National Swimming Championships and June’s 51st Singapore National Age Group Swimming Championships indefinitely. The May 29-31 Fina Diving Grand Prix Singapore has been also cancelled.

All national youth training (youth club/affiliates) will cease until April 30 and youths will also be excused from national team training.

Training sessions for the national team may proceed if limited to 10 people and with appropriate screening measures.

Athletes and coaches will maintain at least one metre spacing between each other while ensuring that there is only one person per 16 sq m of usable space, said the SSA.

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MLB preparing new schedule, player pay changes after league’s season delayed due to coronavirus pandemic

Coronavirus could cost MLB 20% in ticket revenue: Genesco Sports CEO

FOX Business’ Charlie Gasparino and Genesco Sports CEO John Tatum discuss coronavirus’ impact on the sports world and how much these postponements could cost the industry.

Major League Baseball has taken the first steps to carve out a season and setting a tentative opening day amid the coronavirus pandemic, people with direct knowledge of the situation tell FOX Business.

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On Thursday night, the MLB Players Association voted to give Commissioner Rob Manfred broad authority to set a schedule for the season that has been postponed due to health concerns; FOX Business was first to report that the baseball owners will vote and approve the agreement Friday.

Commissioner of Major League Baseball Rob Manfred walks on the field during batting practice before a National League wild card baseball game between the Milwaukee Brewers and the Washington Nationals, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/

The baseball season is the lynchpin of the $10 billion business of MLB. It was scheduled to start on Thursday, but Manfred had delayed indefinitely both spring training and regular season games amid the virus outbreak. League officials, the players union and owners are now taking steps to create a broad, albeit indefinite plan to start the regular season.

According to baseball sources, here’s what the season could look like:

  • Launch spring training in mid-May
  • Begin the season in late May or early June and run into October
  • Launch a schedule that features around 140 games
  • Add more teams than usual to the playoffs, and an extended regular season schedule into October and possibly November playoffs.
  • Provide advances to players amid the shutdown of approximately $170 million.
  • Players will receive so-called service time in 2020 as they did in 2019. Service time allows players to become eligible for free agency and other perks. 

A spokesman for the commissioner's office declined to comment but would not deny the terms of the deal.

The baseball schedule could possibly change depending on the continued spread of novel coronavirus, people with knowledge of the matter tell FOX Business. MLB announced on March 12 the season would be delayed as reports suggested the number of COVID-19 cases caused by the virus was accelerating.

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In an interview on ESPN on Wednesday, Manfred said he was considering a number of ideas.

“We'll have to make a determination depending on what the precise date is as to how much of a preparation period we need,” he said, noting he would have to “think creatively about how we can accomplish that goal.”

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Coronavirus: Delayed Tokyo Olympics will be a relief for sponsors in current chaos, experts say

LONDON (AFP) – The decision to postpone the Tokyo Olympics until 2021 will be welcomed by the sponsors who pay hundreds of millions to be associated with the event, British advertising veteran Martin Sorrell has told AFP.

Faced with growing international pressure, the International Olympic Committee on Tuesday delayed the July 24-Aug 9 Games, a move never before seen in peacetime in the Olympics’ 124-year history.

Sorrell – who founded advertising giant WPP and sits on the IOC’s communications commission – said delaying the Games was logical given the coronavirus pandemic and a resulting recession he compares only to that created by war.

“The (local and international) sponsors would prefer next year in any case given the chaos that is going on at the moment,” he said in a phone interview.

“So this works out for both sets of sponsors.”

Sorrell, who left WPP in 2018, concedes that there are hurdles to be overcome such as the availability of the venues and the timetable – the IOC has left the door open to a spring Olympics – but believes the “extremely competent” Japanese organisers would deal with those changes.

But he foresaw the Games taking place in more propitious financial times.

“People ask me if this recession is different to others. I say there has been nothing like it before – the only comparison is wartime,” he said.

“I have experienced several in my life, such as the oil slump of the 80s, the dot.com crisis in 2001 and (the global financial crisis in) 2008.

“Nothing has been as quick as this. There will be a fallout for some but there will be a recovery.

“Q2 (the second quarter) will be very difficult this year, Q3 less so and Q4 better, so there will be some signs of recovery by the time the Games come round.”

‘Optimism and hope’

The IOC’s former head of marketing, Michael Payne, dismisses the belief in some quarters that IOC chief Thomas Bach and the organisers’ ultimate decision was beholden to the wishes of their respective commercial partners.

“Nothing could be further from the truth that the IOC decision-making process is driven by commercial partners,” the 62-year-old Irishman told AFP.

“They would have been informed but not consulted.

“However, the decision would have been 100 per cent driven by sporting concerns.”

Payne, who in nearly two decades at the IOC was widely credited with transforming its brand and finances by attracting vast sponsorship, said the IOC was less commercial than other sporting bodies.

“The football leagues and Formula One are much more commercial entities even if the sums of money are much smaller,” he said.

“(American broadcaster) NBC do not have a seat at the table when host cities are decided.”

Becoming a so-called TOP (The Olympic Partner Programme established by the IOC in 1985), does not come cheap.

The dozen current members, including Coca-Cola and General Electric, will have invested well over US$100 million (S$143.4 million) each to become one of the main providers for the Tokyo Games.

Unprecedented’

Terrence Burns was an IOC marketing executive and is now executive vice-president of Global Sport for marketing and brand company Engine Shop, advising one of the TOP sponsors, insurance firm Allianz, on the strategic aspects of their IOC partnership.

Burns, who since leaving the IOC has played a key role in five successful Olympic bid city campaigns, told AFP the postponement has caused little fuss because they will retain the 2020 Tokyo Games name despite being moved to next year.

“This is unprecedented for all sponsors whose rights either end, begin, or extend at the end of this quadrennial (2020) and into the next,” he said.

“The key concepts to make this unique situation work are flexibility and fairness.

“Fortunately, Olympic sponsorship agreements are precise and succinct as to the use of which Olympic intellectual property can be used where, how, and when… and by whom.”

Burns said the IOC provided clarity and thereby reassurance to those whose contracts were due to come to an end in 2020.

“The IOC has already stated that sponsors of the Tokyo Games whose rights were set to expire this year will be extended through the Games next year,” he said.

“Accommodations will need to be made in certain categories, but I personally do not see any issues that will prove difficult, let alone insurmountable.”

Burns said he believed the Games next year would be unique in the emotional punch they could deliver as the world recovers from the pandemic.

“The Olympics, at least to me, are as much about optimism and hope as they are about sport,” he said.

“If the global crisis is contained and or is over by next year, I think the Games will provide for a unique and amazing celebration of humanity and triumph.”

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Coronavirus inspires Fanatics to convert MLB jerseys into medical masks, gowns

Sports betting still happening despite coronavirus canceling all events

The sports betting industry takes a hit as all major sports leagues are on hiatus during coronavirus. FOX Business’ Jeff Flock with more.

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Online retailer Fanatics will use material from Major League Baseball uniforms to craft much-needed protective equipment for health care workers on the front lines of the coronavirus outbreak, the company announced on Thursday.

Fanatics has halted production of MLB uniforms and converted its factory in Easton, Pa., to make medical gowns and masks. To start, the company will use material originally intended to produce Philadelphia Phillies and New York Yankees uniforms.

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“The COVID-19 crisis has compelled our country to be more collaborative, innovative and strategic than ever before,” Fanatics executive chairman Michael Rubin said in a statement. “As the demand for masks and gowns have surged, we’re fortunate to have teamed up with Major League Baseball to find a unique way to support our frontline workers in this fight to stem the virus, who are in dire need of essential resources.”

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Rubin said Fanatics has begun production of as many as one million masks and gowns. The goods will be donated to hospitals and other priority destinations in Pennsylvania, with plans to expand deliveries to facilities in New York and New Jersey.

Hospitals around the country have reported dire shortages of masks and other personal protective equipment, or PPE, required to keep workers safe while treating patients. There was more than 80,000 individual confirmed cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by coronavirus, in the United States as of Thursday.

“I’m proud that Major League Baseball can partner with Fanatics to help support the brave healthcare workers and emergency personnel who are on the front lines of helping patients with COVID-19,” MLB Commissioner Robert Manfred said in a statement. “They are truly heroes.”

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Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf and Attorney General Josh Shapiro contacted Rubin to assess whether Fanatics could aid in mask production, a company spokesman said. Once MLB officials signed off on the idea, Fanatics began production.

Fanatics is MLB’s official merchandise partner, with exclusive rights to produce uniforms for public sale. Nike is MLB’s official uniform supplier for on-field use.

MLB has delayed the start of its 2020 season due to the coronavirus outbreak. At present, it’s unclear when it will be safe for play to resume.

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Boxing: IOC criticised after Turkish boxers get coronavirus

LONDON (REUTERS) – The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has been accused of irresponsibility after two Turkish boxers and a trainer caught the coronavirus during a qualifying event in London this month.

According to the Turkish Boxing Federation website, athlete Serhat Guler and trainer Seyfullah Dumlupinar contracted the virus at the European qualifying tournament.

“While the world was taking extreme measures to deal with the virus, I am baffled that an IOC taskforce and the British government allowed the tournament to start even though many of us had concerns and almost every other sport had shut down,” federation President Eyup Gozgec was quoted as saying in the Guardian.

London’s Copper Box arena hosted the official Olympic qualifying tournament, featuring boxers from 40 nations.

It continued for three days despite virtually every other sport being suspended because of the pandemic.

In a letter to other boxing federations, seen by the Guardian, Gozgec, who is also vice-president of the European Boxing Confederation, said: “Unfortunately, two of our athletes and our Turkish head coach have tested positive for the new type Covid-19 coronavirus after returning to Turkey from London.

“All of them are in treatment now and thankfully they are in good condition. This is the disastrous result of the irresponsibility of the IOC taskforce.

“This virus has been around since December 2019. Therefore, it is inevitable to ask why the European qualification event was not postponed before it took place?

“They did not consider anyone’s health, which led them to organise this horrible event.”

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During coronavirus, MLB super agent pitches World Series in December

Sports shutdown has leagues participating in virus containment: Former Marlins president

Former Miami Marlins President David Samson discusses how sports leagues are getting involved and becoming more aware of coronavirus containment efforts since the shutdown and how it will impact workers and surrounding businesses.

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As Major League Baseball contends with a prolonged delay to its 2020 season amid the coronavirus outbreak, one of the sport’s most powerful player agents has a pair of proposals on how to proceed with a full slate of games when play eventually resumes.

Scott Boras, who negotiated MLB contracts worth more than $1 billion this offseason alone, told the Los Angeles Times he has submitted two ideas to league officials for consideration. Both concepts would stretch MLB’s season through December 2020, with the World Series concluding around Christmas.

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Under one idea, MLB would resume play on June 1 and complete a full 162-game season. The other concept calls for a July 1 start and a 144-game regular season.

“We have it all mapped out,” Boras told the newspaper. “It’s workable. We’ve done climate studies, and in Southern California, the average temperature in December is 67 degrees, which is better than late March and early April in most cities. We have 11 stadiums we could play postseason games in.”

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Scott Boras speaks during a press conference at Minute Maid Park on June 18, 2012, in Houston, Texas. (Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Boras suggests that MLB could play its postseason games in domed stadiums and open-air stadiums in temperate Southern California to prevent any interruption from winter weather. The playoffs would proceed without any off days in between games.

MLB officials have yet to unveil their plans for the 2020 season once play resumes. The league suspended all spring training activities and postponed the start of the regular season earlier this month as the coronavirus outbreak worsened.

At present, it’s unclear how the delay will impact MLB salaries and contract accrual time. The MLB and MLB Players Association are in the midst of negotiations on the financial implications.

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MLB’s collective bargaining agreement grants Commissioner Robert Manfred the power to suspend salaries in the event of a national emergency.

League officials are eyeing a potential restart in June, ESPN reported. However, given the uncertain landscape during the outbreak, the delay could stretch into July or later.

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Coronavirus: Singapore race course will be closed to public on March 26

SINGAPORE – Stiffer new measures by the Ministry of Health (MOH) to combat the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in the Singapore race course’s closure on Thursday (March 26).

“The Singapore race course will be closed to the public on 26 March, Thursday,” a Singapore Turf Club statement said on Wednesday.

“There will be no screening of overseas simulcast races at the race course.

“The Club’s top priority is the safety and well-being of our visitors and is committed to continue to operate our business in a safe and responsible manner. We will continue to adjust our Covid-19 precautionary measures as the situation changes.”

MOH announced on Monday night that all sporting events, regardless of size, must be deferred or cancelled, with the measure taking effect until at least April 30.

The same rule applies to conferences, exhibitions, festivals, concerts and trade fairs.

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Coronavirus: Relieved American sports stars welcome Olympic postponement

LOS ANGELES (AFP) – American athletes welcomed the decision to postpone the Tokyo Olympics on Tuesday (March 24), exhaling a collective sigh of relief tinged with disappointment as they began to set their sights on 2021.

As the deadly coronavirus pandemic swept into all 50 states of the United States, US athletes preparing for the Olympics saw years of carefully choreographed training plans left in tatters.

Powerhouse swimmer Katie Ledecky, expected to be one of the stars of the Tokyo Games, had been left without a pool to train in as restrictions in California shut down the Stanford University facilities.

Track and field star Noah Lyles – the reigning 200m world champion – had been denied regular access to a running track. Instead Lyles, who suffers from allergies and asthma, had been forced to train in a park in Florida.

Lyles and Ledecky’s problems had become all too common for US athletes, who had found themselves torn between the need to comply with local regulations restricting non-essential movement while simultaneously sticking to training regimens designed to help them prepare for Tokyo.

Lyles had no reservations about the decision to postpone the Games – and vowed to be ready for Tokyo in 2021.

“Straight up I’m tired of hearing I’m sorry like my puppy just died,” Lyles wrote on Twitter. “We will overcome this like everything else and then go win the Gold in 2021!”

In a later interview with NBC, he said the safety of athletes was paramount.

“Safety first,” he said. “The last thing we want is for anybody to get sick. I can train for another year, but if the whole world goes through a crisis and everybody gets sick, we won’t have an Olympics at all.”

Lyles had already achieved a qualifying standard to compete in Tokyo. But the 22-year-old believes many athletes would have missed out through not being able to train properly had the Games gone ahead.

“It would have been very hard for a lot of us to even get a qualifying time,” Lyles said. “That’s the situation a lot of athletes would have been in.”

Ledecky meanwhile described an increasingly fraught hunt for facilities after her regular training pool at Stanford was closed.

After seven days without putting a toe in the water, she finally swam over the weekend in a private pool in someone’s backyard.

“At certain points there were times we didn’t know if cancellation was still on the table or if there could be a postponement until the end of this year or some other time,” she told the Washington Post. “It’s good to have clarity now.

Ledecky’s US swimming team-mate Nathan Adrian meanwhile spoke of mixed emotions after learning of the postponement.

“Disappointment, obviously, because we’d be training for four years…but then the other side of the coin is relief,” said Adrian, 31, who had been targeting a fourth Olympic Games appearance.

Adrian, who underwent surgery for testicular cancer last year, is from Washington state, one of the epicentres of the Covid-19 crisis in the US.

“My parents are still up there along with my brother and sister. And my parents are in the risk category. I feel guilty if I’m trying to go out and train, sneaking around trying to find a grey area that allows me to get into a pool or lift some weights,” he told NBC.

Other athletes meanwhile took a defiant stance, immediately turning their attention to a Tokyo Olympics sometime in 2021.

“We train hard. We put our blood, sweat and tears into this,” said Emma Coburn, the 2017 women’s steeplechase world champion.

“We dream for this. Our dreams are not cancelled, they are just postponed. The safety of athletes, our communities and our world is most important. This is the right thing to do.”

Rai Benjamin, the 400m hurdles silver medallist at last year’s World Championships, acknowledged disappointment in a social media post.

“This was THE year. The work, the sacrifice, the determination, but I understand,” Benjamin wrote. “Everyone stay safe and Tokyo we’ll see you soon.”

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Coronavirus: Australia says athletes who had qualified for 2020 Olympics are assured of their spots for 2021

MELBOURNE (REUTERS) – The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) has said that athletes who have already qualified for the Tokyo Games are assured of their spots when the global sporting showpiece takes place in 2021.

The 2020 Olympics were pushed back by a year on Tuesday (March 24) due to the coronavirus pandemic which has disrupted qualifying for thousands of Tokyo hopefuls in a slew of sports.

Almost 60 per cent of the 11,000-odd athletes set for Tokyo had already qualified but the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has yet to clarify publicly whether their 2021 berths are assured.

AOC chief executive Matt Carroll said qualified athletes were guaranteed their 2021 spots, however.

“That is our understanding at this time,” Carroll told reporters in Sydney on Wednesday.

“Athletes may change their minds between now and 2021. But let’s cover that off.

“Today the most important thing is that athletes have certainty for those who have been selected and certainty for those who are yet to qualify.”

Carroll said he had spoken to the chief of Australia’s national institute of sport and the heads of the sports federations about ensuring qualified athletes would be in peak form to compete in 2021.

“Therein does lie a challenge for the high-performance structures at the AIS (Australian Institute of Sports) and our sports to work with our athletes to meet those challenges,” he said.

“If you’re talking about the athletes who have been selected or the ones who are coming through, I am sure all selected athletes will work hard to be at the Tokyo 2020 Games in 2021.

“That’s their nature and I have no doubt about that.”

Carroll said football’s global governing body Fifa and the IOC would need to work together to iron out qualification issues for the Olympic tournament, given that a number of qualified players could become ineligible due to age restrictions.

The tournament allows only three players per national squad to be above 23 years old.

“This is hopefully a once-in-history event, postponement of the Games,” he said. “So I think we’re good working together, (good) relationships together, we can get over all those technical details and are sure that people who have qualified will remain qualified.”

Working out qualifying for the remaining athletes remains a challenge for organisers, given the dates for the postponed Games remains up in the air.

The United States wasted little time in delaying qualifying, putting off athletics, swimming and gymnastics trials on Tuesday while they await clarity on the Olympic schedule.

Carroll said he was confident Japan would be able to work through the “huge logistical challenge” of rescheduling.

“At least we have a new goal and planning has started,” he said. “For the IOC, it’s working with the international federations because it’s an entire shift in the planning for global events such as world championships, world cups, all those sorts of things will have to be worked through.”

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