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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