LAUSANNE, March 17 — The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said today it was not the time for “drastic decisions” over the staging of the Tokyo Olympics, which has not yet been postponed because of the deadly coronavirus pandemic.
“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 IOC said in a statement after its executive board met in Lausanne.
The Tokyo Olympics are scheduled to run between July 24-August 9, but the year’s biggest sporting event is as yet one of the sole sporting competitions to have survived a postponement in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak that has caused more than 7,400 deaths and infected more than 180,000 around the world.
The IOC statement fell shortly after both this summer’s Euro 2020 and Copa America tournaments were postponed by one year to 2021.
US President Donald Trump has suggested the Japanese capital also postpone the Olympics for 12 months, although Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe responded by pledging his country would host the Games as planned and saying he had no immediate intention to declare a state of emergency over the virus outbreak.
“This is an unprecedented situation for the whole world, and our thoughts are with all those affected by this crisis,” the IOC said.
IOC president Thomas Bach added: “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.”
The IOC acknowledged preparations for the Tokyo Games had been impacted, and encouraged all athletes to continue training “as best they can”.
“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.”
One of the results of the virus outbreak has been the cancellation of qualifiers, in a number of sports, for the Tokyo Olympics.
But the IOC insisted it would work to surmount any difficulties that threw up.
“To date, 57 per cent of the athletes are already qualified for the Games,” it said. “For the remaining 43 per cent of places, the IOC will work with the IFs (international federations) to make any necessary and practical adaptations to their respective qualification systems for Tokyo 2020.”
The IOC vowed to “continue to act in a responsible way and have agreed the following overriding principles about the staging of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020:
“1. To protect the health of everyone involved and to support the containment of the virus. 2. To safeguard the interests of the athletes and of Olympic sport.”
The IOC will continue to monitor the situation 24/7. Already in mid-February, a task force was set up.
The body added any decision it takes on the staging of the Games “will not be determined by financial interests, because thanks to its risk management policies and insurance it will in any case be able to continue its operations and accomplish its mission to organise the Olympic Games”.
A taskforce (consisting of the IOC, the World Health Organisation, the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee, the Japanese authorities and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government) was created in mid-February to ensure “coordinated actions by all stakeholders” and offer guidance the IOC said it would follow.
Already, the format of all the test events in March and April in Japan has been “altered to allow for the testing of essential Games elements”.
“The lighting of the Olympic torch in Greece and subsequent elements of the Torch Relay in Japan are being adapted, the entire Games preparation supply chain has been analysed, and alternative plans are in place in the event of anticipated disruption,” the IOC said. — AFP