IOC takes four weeks to assess virus impact on Tokyo Olympics

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The IOC and Japanese officials will take up to four weeks to assess the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on the Olympics, including a possible postponement to a later start, but cancellation is not on the agenda.

“The IOC will, in full coordination and partnership with the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee, the Japanese authorities and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, start detailed discussions to complete its assessment of the rapid development of the worldwide health situation and its impact on the Olympic Games, including the scenario of postponement,” according to an IOC press release. “The IOC is confident that it will have finalized these discussions within the next four weeks, and greatly appreciates the solidarity and partnership of the [National Olympic Committees] and [International Federations] in supporting the athletes and adapting Games planning.

“The IOC EB [Executive Board] emphasized that a cancellation of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 would not solve any of the problems or help anybody.”

The IOC has a task force, including the World Health Organization, which has said it is too early to make a decision with four months until the July 24 Opening Ceremony.

IOC President Thomas Bach wrote in a Sunday letter to the global athlete community that, “human lives take precedence over everything, including the staging of the Games.”

“The IOC wants to be part of the solution,” Bach wrote. “Therefore we have made it our leading principle to safeguard the health of everyone involved, and to contribute to containing the virus. I wish, and we all are working for this, that the hope so many athletes, NOCs and IFs from all five continents have expressed will be fulfilled: that at the end of this dark tunnel we are all going through together, not knowing how long it is, the Olympic flame will be a light at the end of this tunnel.”

U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee leaders said Friday the IOC is polling National Olympic Committees on the impacts on athletes’ training.

“Rest assured we are making your concerns clearly known to them,” USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland and Chair Susanne Lyons said in a statement. “The USOPC will be leaders in providing accurate advice and honest feedback, and be unfailing advocates of the athletes and their safety, and the necessity of a fair platform for the Games. You have our promise.”

Hirshland and USOPC Athletes’ Advisory Council Chair Han Xiao responded to the IOC’s Sunday announcement in a joint statement.

“The progress reflected in today’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,” it read. “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. Every day counts. 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.”

The IOC said last week it would work with International Federations to make changes to Olympic qualifying, which has been impacted by global sporting events being postponed and canceled into April and May. Any sport qualifying process revisions would be published by the beginning of April, the IOC said last week.

An increase in the number of overall athletes allowed for a sport will be considered on a case-by-case basis under exceptional circumstances.

So far, 57 percent of athletes are qualified for the Olympics, according to the IOC.

“On the one hand, there are significant improvements in Japan where the people are warmly welcoming the Olympic Flame,” according to the IOC’s release Sunday. “This could strengthen the IOC’s confidence in the Japanese hosts that the IOC could, with certain safety restrictions, organize Olympic Games in the country whilst respecting its principle of safeguarding the health of everyone involved. On the other hand, there is a dramatic increase in cases and new outbreaks of COVID-19 in different countries on different continents.”

The IOC said there are “many, many challenges” in planning for different Olympic scenarios.

“A number of critical venues needed for the Games could potentially not be available anymore,” according to the release. “The situations with millions of nights already booked in hotels is extremely difficult to handle, and the international sports calendar for at least 33 Olympic sports would have to be adapted.”

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MORE: U.S. athletes qualified for Tokyo Olympics

Elena Fanchini, medal-winning Alpine skier, dies at 37

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Italian skier Elena Fanchini, whose career was cut short by a tumor, has died. She was 37.

Fanchini passed away Wednesday at her home in Solato, near Brescia, the Italian Winter Sports Federation announced.

Fanchini died on the same day that fellow Italian Marta Bassino won the super-G at the world championships in Meribel, France; and two days after Federica Brignone — another former teammate — claimed gold in combined.

Sofia Goggia, who is the favorite for Saturday’s downhill, dedicated her win in Cortina d’Ampezzo last month to Fanchini.

Fanchini last raced in December 2017. She was cleared to return to train nearly a year later but never made it fully back, and her condition grew worse in recent months.

Fanchini won a silver medal in downhill at the 2005 World Championships and also won two World Cup races in her career — both in downhill.

She missed the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics because of her condition.

Fanchini’s younger sisters Nadia and Sabrina were also World Cup racers.

USA Boxing to skip world championships

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USA Boxing will not send boxers to this year’s men’s and women’s world championships, citing “the ongoing failures” of the IBA, the sport’s international governing body, that put boxing’s place on the Olympic program at risk.

The Washington Post first reported the decision.

In a letter to its members, USA Boxing Executive Director Mike McAtee listed many factors that led to the decision, including IBA governance issues, financial irregularities and transparency and that Russian and Belarusian boxers are allowed to compete with their flags.

IBA lifted its ban on Russian and Belarusian boxers in October and said it would allow their flags and anthems to return, too.

The IOC has not shifted from its recommendation to international sports federations last February that Russian and Belarusian athletes be barred, though the IOC and Olympic sports officials have been exploring whether those athletes could return without national symbols.

USA Boxing said that Russian boxers have competed at an IBA event in Morocco this month with their flags and are expected to compete at this year’s world championships under their flags.

“While sport is intended to be politically neutral, many boxers, coaches and other representatives of the Ukrainian boxing community were killed as a result of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, including coach Mykhaylo Korenovsky who was killed when a Russian missile hit an apartment block in January 2023,” according to the USA Boxing letter. “Ukraine’s sports infrastructure, including numerous boxing gyms, has been devastated by Russian aggression.”

McAtee added later that USA Boxing would still not send athletes to worlds even if Russians and Belarusians were competing as neutrals and without their flags.

“USA Boxing’s decision is based on the ‘totality of all of the factors,'” he said in an emailed response. “Third party oversite and fairness in the field of play is the most important factor.”

A message has been sent to the IBA seeking comment on USA Boxing’s decision.

The women’s world championships are in March in India. The men’s world championships are in May in Uzbekistan. They do not count toward 2024 Olympic qualifying.

In December, the IOC said recent IBA decisions could lead to “the cancellation of boxing” for the 2024 Paris Games.

Some of the already reported governance issues led to the IOC stripping IBA — then known as AIBA — of its Olympic recognition in 2019. AIBA had suspended all 36 referees and judges used at the 2016 Rio Olympics pending an investigation into a possible judging scandal, one that found that some medal bouts were fixed by “complicit and compliant” referees and judges.

The IOC ran the Tokyo Olympic boxing competition.

Boxing was not included on the initial program for the 2028 Los Angeles Games announced in December 2021, though it could still be added. The IBA must address concerns “around its governance, its financial transparency and sustainability and the integrity of its refereeing and judging processes,” IOC President Thomas Bach said then.

This past June, the IOC said IBA would not run qualifying competitions for the 2024 Paris Games.

In September, the IOC said it was “extremely concerned” about the Olympic future of boxing after an IBA extraordinary congress overwhelmingly backed Russian Umar Kremlev to remain as its president rather than hold an election.

Kremlev was re-elected in May after an opponent, Boris van der Vorst of the Netherlands, was barred from running against him. The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled in June that van der Vorst should have been eligible to run against Kremlev, but the IBA group still decided not to hold a new election.

Last May, Rashida Ellis became the first U.S. woman to win a world boxing title at an Olympic weight since Claressa Shields in 2016, taking the 60kg lightweight crown in Istanbul. In Tokyo, Ellis lost 3-0 in her opening bout in her Olympic debut.

At the last men’s worlds in 2021, Robby Gonzales and Jahmal Harvey became the first U.S. men to win an Olympic or world title since 2007, ending the longest American men’s drought since World War II.

The Associated Press and NBC Olympic research contributed to this report.

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