COVID-19 Threat: Bach firm amidst growing call for Games postponement

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International Olympic Committee chief Thomas Bach has reiterated his stand that it will not be easy to postpone or cancel the Tokyo 2020 Games. Reiterating that the Olympics cancellation is not on his agenda, Bach has strongly rebutted the growing clamour from athletics fraternity worldwide that the Summer Games be postponed in wake of the global spread of the COVID-19 virus, which till date has no anti-dose.

“You can’t postpone the Olympic Games like a football match next Saturday,” German news agency DPA has quoted Bach as telling SWR radio. “A cancellation would destroy the Olympic dream of 11,000 athletes from 206 national Olympic committees and the IOC refugee team. Such a cancellation would be the least fair solution.”

Three days after asserting that the IOC was focusing on “safe Olympic Games on schedule”, Bach on Saturday reportedly defended his stand while talking to the radio station. Ruling out any decision to postpone or cancel the Games, Bach on Thursday had told the New York Times that the IOC was contemplating “different scenarios”.

The International Paralympic Committee has also planned to proceed with the Tokyo Paralympic Games as per scheduled.

The 32nd Olympic Games, slated from July 24 to August 9, are still four months away, and IOC was not ready to act in haste. The rapidly spreading Coronavirus, which has affected more than 300,000 people worldwide resulting in nearly 13,000 deaths, has already put breaks on numerous Olympic qualifying events and halted regular training schedules of thousands of athletes who have earned Tokyo 2020 births.

Amidst such concerns, calls are growing worldwide to postpone the Tokyo 2020 Games.

In India, ace paddler Achanta Sharath Kamal has joined chief national badminton coach Pullela Gopichand to call for the Games to be put on hold.

Also Read: COVID-19 Fear: Sharath Kamal for Olympics postponement

Elsewhere, Brazil Olympics Committee and Norwegian Olympics and Paralympic Committees are among the IOC affiliates to have raised concerns. US Swimming and Athletics (Track and Field) have also asked for the Games to deferred.

“Everyone has experienced unimaginable disruptions, mere months before the Olympic Games, which calls into question the authenticity of a level playing field for all,” USA Swimming CEO Tim Hinchey has reportedly written to US Olympic and Paralympic Committee CEO Sarah Hirshland. “Our athletes are under tremendous pressure, stress and anxiety, and their mental health and wellness should be among the highest priorities.”

Six-time Canadian Olympian and IOC Athletes’ Commission member Hayley Wickenheiser is among the ones to denounce the plan to go forward with the Games. “I think the IOC insisting this will move ahead with such conviction is insensitive and irresponsible given the state of humanity,” she had stated in a tweeted message.

Tokyo meanwhile is working on preparations to adhere to July 24 opening schedule. Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee vice president Toshiaki Endo has earlier been reported as saying that “the organizing committee is not at the point where we need a decision on whether to cancel or postpone the games. The IOC will make the final decision. We will prepare thoroughly for the Games’ opening in July”.

However, they are aware of the fact that the Games might well not start as scheduled if the situation continues to worsen.

Earlier this week, Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee Executive Board member Kaori Yamaguchi has said that the Olympic Games this year should not be organised on the July 24-August 9 schedule “if the people across the world can’t enjoy themselves”.

Also read: Tokyo 2020 official calls for postponement of Olympics

According to IOC records itself, 43% of the Tokyo 2020 athletes quotas are still to be filled. Resumption of the Olympic qualifying events is nowhere in sight. In such a scenario, the sports world will be waiting anxiously to see what route IOC take finally to end this wait and watch uncertainty.