Coronavirus Threatens 2020 Olympics As US Joins Countries That Favor Postponing The Tokyo Games

LAGOS MARCH 24TH (NEWSRANGERS)-Joining an ever-growing chorus, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee announced late Monday that it would favor postponing the Tokyo Games this summer amid concerns about the coronavirus.

Team USA officials did not say when they would prefer the event to take place, but several other countries — including Canada, Australia, Germany, Brazil and Slovenia — have called for the Games to be held no earlier than 2021. Norway’s Olympic body said it did not want athletes going to Tokyo until the global health crisis is under control.

In a statement posted on its website, the USOPC said it made the decision after talking with its athletes, many of whom have seen their training facilities closed and critical competitions canceled amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Even if the pandemic tapers to the point where it would be safe to hold the Games, athletes have questioned whether Olympic trials and other qualifying events — many of which have been scrapped — could be held under healthy and fair conditions.

“We regret that there is no outcome that can solve all the concerns we face,” the statement read. “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.”

The announcement came hours after USA Gymnastics publicly pushed for the Games to delayed. The federation said its position reflected a recent athlete survey in which 62 percent favor postponing the Tokyo Olympics, which are slated to start July 24.

USA Track & Field and USA Swimming called for a postponement last week, meaning the U.S. team’s three marquee sports oppose efforts to hold the Games in light of the pandemic.

The International Olympic Committee — which will make the final decision — has set a mid-April deadline for making a determination. Veteran IOC member Dick Pound told USA Today on Monday that the Games would likely be moved to 2021, with more details announced in the coming weeks.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe earlier Monday acknowledged the Olympics might be postponed because of the threat to athlete health and safety.

“If I’m asked whether we can hold the Olympics at this point in time, I would have to say that the world is not in such a condition,” Abe told parliament.

Total cancellation is not an option, IOC President Thomas Bach said in a letter to athletes over the weekend.

“Human lives take precedence over everything, including the staging of the Games. The IOC wants to be part of the solution,” Bach wrote Sunday. “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 of so many athletes (and governing bodies) 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.”

On Sunday night, the Canadian and Australian teams responded to the IOC’s wait-and-see attitude by announcing its athletes would not compete in Tokyo this summer.

Canada asked for a 12-month delay, while Australia told its athletes to prepare for a 2021 Games.

The uncertainty has left Olympic hopefuls on edge, forcing them to find creative ways to train and keep their minds off a potentially devastating blow to long-held dreams.

As recently as Thursday, Bach told the New York Times he remained optimistic that infection rates might subside enough to allow the Games to go forward.

But amid increased pressure to postpone the Games because of the pandemic, it appears the IOC has changed course.

This would be the first time the Olympics are pushed back. But three other times, the Games were canceled because of World War I (1916) and World War II (1940 and 1944).

The coronavirus pandemic has shut down sports leagues and events worldwide.

The NBA on March 11 became the first major professional sports league in the United States to suspend its season after Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the virus. The NHL, MLB and MLS followed suit the next day, while the NCAA canceled its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments and eventually all remaining winter and spring sports for the academic year.

Since then, the PGA Tour and NASCAR suspended their seasons, and the Kentucky Derby and The Masters were postponed.

Associated Press contributed.

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Posted by on Mar 24 2020. Filed under Health, National, Sports. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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