LOS ANGELES (AFP, REUTERS) – The US Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC), noting the “enormous ambiguity” faced by athletes attempting to prepare for the Tokyo Games during the coronavirus pandemic, called the International Olympic Committee’s pledge to decide on possible postponement in four weeks “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.”
Nigel Huddleston, Britain’s Sports Minister also welcomed the news that the IOC was considering a delay of the Tokyo Games, adding: “It is right that the IOC seriously considers postponing the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. The health and safety of athletes, sports fans and officials due to work at the Games is absolutely paramount. We would welcome the IOC making a definitive decision soon, to bring clarity to all those involved.”
Hugh Robertson, chairman British Olympic Association (BOA) added: “We welcome the IOC Executive Board decision to review the options in respect of a postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. However, we urge rapid decision-making for the sake of athletes who still face significant uncertainty.”
World Athletics, the global governing body for track and field, said: “We stand ready to work with the IOC and all sport on an alternative date.”
The IOC has come under mounting pressure to postpone the Tokyo Olympics, scheduled to run from July 24 to Aug 9.
US media reported on Sunday that American athletes had voted during a virtual town hall with USOPC officials and given Tokyo the thumbs down. Almost three-quarters of the 300 athletes who met online with USOPC supported delaying the Games, USA Today reported. In all, 70 per cent of the athletes supported a postponement, according to details supplied by a member of the USOPC Athletes Advisory Council.
That same day, Sebastian Coe, World Athletics’ president, wrote to IOC president Thomas Bach to argue that the Tokyo Olympics are not feasible at their current July starting date because of the coronavirus pandemic and must be delayed.
“An Olympic Games in July this year is neither feasible nor desirable,” he said, revealing that all continental athletics officials unanimously agree on a delay.
“Every one of my Area Presidents believes that we can no longer expect a fair and level playing field in our sport given the number of athletes who are struggling to train,” said Coe in his letter.”If we lose the level playing field, we lose the integrity of the competition. Nobody wants this.”
IOC president Bach said on Sunday that a decision on when the Games would take place would be made “within the next four weeks”.
“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 prioritse 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.”
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