A pedestrian walks past a large display promoting the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, last week. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
By RENALDO DORSETT
Tribune Sports Reporter
Despite the cancellation or suspension of virtually every major sporting event across the globe as a result of the novel coronavirus, the International Olympic Committee remains steadfast on its intention to host the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games as scheduled.
As health and safety concerns continue to arise amid the Coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak, the IOC issued a “communique” to stakeholders and member federations yesterday to reinforce the notion that the event will continue as planned July 29 to August 4 in Tokyo, Japan.
“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,” the statement read.
“The IOC encourages all athletes to continue to prepare for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 as best they can.
“We will keep supporting the athletes by consulting with them and their respective NOCs, and by providing them with the latest information and developments, which are accessible for athletes worldwide on the Athlete365 website and via their respective NOCs and IFs. The IOC has confidence that the many measures being taken by many authorities around the world will help contain the situation of the COVID-19 virus.”
The day-to-day work between all organisations continues, although on a remote basis.
Also this week, the world of Athletics suffered a major setback as the Diamond League postponed its first three athletics meetings of the 2020 season due to be held in April and May in Qatar and China because of the ongoing outbreak.
All Bahamian Olympic qualifiers thus far have come from athletics: Shaunae Miller-Uibo, Steven Gardiner, Tynia Gaither, Pedrya Seymour, Jamal Wilson and Samson Colebrooke.
Qualifying competitions in other sports continue to experience suspensions and cancellations, presenting a difficulty in member federations fielding teams.
“Currently, all Olympic Movement stakeholders and the athletes face significant challenges around securing the final qualification places for the Games. In some countries, athletes are even finding it hard to continue their regular training schedules. The IOC is reassured by the solidarity and flexibility shown by the athletes, the IFs and the NOCs, that are managing these challenges across a number of sports,” the statement read.
“To date, 57 per cent of the athletes are already qualified for the Games. For the remaining 43 per cent of places, the IOC will work with the IFs to make any necessary and practical adaptations to their respective qualification systems for Tokyo 2020”
IOC President Thomas Bach said: “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.”
Francesco Ricci Bitti, the president of the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF), added:
“I would like to thank all those involved in the organisation of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 and all the athletes and the international federations for their great flexibility.
“We share the same approach and the same principles as the IOC, and we are as committed as the IOC to a successful Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. We will keep in touch and have further consultations with all stakeholders concerned.”
The communique came after several outspoken voices within the IOC have expressed public skepticism on the hosting of the games.
French Olympic Committee President Denis Masseglia told Reuters that if coronavirus isn’t contained by the end of May, he couldn’t see how the Olympics could happen on time.
Several prominent athletes have also joined the dissenting voice.