USOPC leaders: Olympic postponement ‘most promising’ path

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U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee leaders said, “It’s more clear than ever that the path toward postponement is the most promising,” after surveying more than 1,780 Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls about the coronavirus’ impact on their training and, potentially, the Tokyo Games.

“We are now confident that we have heard a wide range of viewpoints and understand the diversity of challenges our athletes face,” USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland and Chair Susanne Lyons said in a joint statement accompanying the survey results. “We regret that there is no outcome that can solve all the concerns we face. Our most important conclusion from this broad athlete response is that even if the current significant health concerns could be alleviated by late summer, the enormous disruptions to the training environment, doping controls and qualification process can’t be overcome in a satisfactory manner. To that end, it’s more clear than ever that the path toward postponement is the most promising, and we encourage the IOC to take all needed steps to ensure the Games can be conducted under safe and fair conditions for all competitors. We look forward to their feedback and direction, and stand ready to work in support of Team USA and in full cooperation with the global community.”

A USOPC spokesperson later confirmed the statement meant that, out of the Tokyo Olympic outcomes being considered, they are advocating for postponement. The Opening Ceremony is scheduled for July 24.

The survey, sent to about 4,000 athletes with a 45 percent response rate, yielded results that included:

  • Nearly 65 percent of athletes said their training has been severely impacted, or they can’t train at all.
  • Nearly two-thirds of athletes feel that continuing to train would either put their health at risk or aren’t sure if it would put their health at risk.
  • Nearly 70 percent of athletes said they would feel comfortable competing if the World Health Organization deemed it safe.
  • 68 percent said they did not think the Games could be fairly competed if continued as scheduled.
  • Nearly 93 percent reported a preference for postponing the Games versus canceling them outright.

On Sunday, IOC President Thomas Bach said detailed discussions began to assess the coronavirus’ impact on the Olympics, including the scenario of postponement but not cancellation.

“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,” according to an IOC press release on Sunday. “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.”

Bach said there are “many, many challenges” in planning different Olympic scenarios.

“A number of critical venues needed for the Games could potentially not be available anymore,” he wrote in a letter to athletes. “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.”

Later Sunday, the Canadian Olympic Committee announced it would not send an Olympic team to the Tokyo Games if held in 2020. The Australian Olympic Committee told its athletes to prepare for an Olympics in summer 2021, but did not say that it would not send an Olympic team if the Games are held in 2020.

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