In Depth

‘Insensitive and irresponsible’: IOC slammed over Tokyo 2020 Olympics coronavirus stance

Olympic organisers say there’s no need for any ‘drastic action’ at this stage

The coronavirus pandemic may have seen the sporting schedule wiped out but for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) it’s business as usual ahead of Tokyo 2020.

Yesterday, before an IOC meeting, Japan’s Olympic minister Seiko Hashimoto said the country is still aiming to host a “complete” summer games on time and with fans in attendance, BBC Sport reported. 

Hashimoto said: “A complete Olympics is what we are aiming for. We will do our utmost to prepare [to hold the Olympics] as scheduled so that the International Olympic Committee will be convinced we are capable of hosting the games. [The event would be] started on time and with spectators in attendance.”

Yesterday also saw international football governing bodies postpone Euro 2020 and the Copa America until the summer of 2021. The IOC, however, has made its position clear... for now.

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‘No need for any drastic action’

This summer’s Olympic Games are set to start in the Japanese capital city on 24 June and despite calls for the event to be cancelled or postponed the IOC says it “remains fully committed” to Tokyo 2020 and “no drastic action” will be taken yet. 

In a statement the IOC said: “This is an unprecedented situation for the whole world, and our thoughts are with all those affected by this crisis. We are in solidarity with the whole of society to do everything to contain the virus. The situation around the COVID-19 virus is also impacting the preparations for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, and is changing day by day.

“The IOC remains fully committed to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, and with more than four months to go before the Games there is no need for any drastic decisions at this stage; and any speculation at this moment would be counter-productive.”

IOC president Thomas Bach added: “The health and well-being of all those involved in the preparations for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 is our number-one concern. 

“All measures are being taken to safeguard the safety and interests of athletes, coaches and support teams. We are an Olympic community; we support one another in good times and in difficult times. This Olympic solidarity defines us as a community.”

‘90% certain to be delayed’

Despite the bullish claims emanating from Japan and the IOC, The Times reports that senior figures in British sport are now “90% certain” that the Olympics won’t escape unscathed from the coronavirus chaos.

In private the IOC is increasingly fearful that the Games will be delayed or even cancelled and The Times says the committee has “until 60 days before the start of competition”, which would be 26 May, to delay Tokyo 2020.

In the United States swimming coach Dave Marsh told The New York Times that a decision must be made sooner rather than later. 

“If things don’t change dramatically, I don’t see how they don’t change the schedule,” said Marsh. “Let’s just do it one year later. The sooner we make that kind of decision the better.”

‘Crisis is bigger than even the Olympics’

The statement by the IOC has been labelled “insensitive and irresponsible” by one of its own members. 

Canadian Hayley Wickenheiser, a four-time ice hockey Olympic gold medallist, said: “This crisis is bigger than even the Olympics. We don’t know what’s happening in the next 24 hours, let alone the next three months.  

“From an athlete perspective, I can only imagine and try to empathise with the anxiety and heartbreak athletes are feeling right now. 

“Athletes can’t train, attendees can’t travel plan. Sponsors and marketers can’t market with any degree of sensitivity. 

“I think the IOC insisting this will move ahead, with such conviction, is insensitive and irresponsible given the state of humanity.”

Today’s back pages

French Open farce creates ‘confusion and anger’ and Champions League could be played on weekend

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