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  • Corona Chronicles: Pressure Mounts for Tokyo Changes


    03/21/20

    (ATR) A rising tide of support to postpone the dates of the Tokyo Olympics is the latest pressure point for the IOC as it considers options amid the corona pandemic.

    Two sports governing bodies known as pipelines for gold medalists --USA Swimming and USA Track and Field -- have both issued statements calling on the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee to tell the IOC to postpone the Games until 2021.

    “Unfortunately, while our world class athletes are willing to push themselves to their athletic limits in pursuit of Olympic success, the likelihood that they will be able to properly train in a safe and adequate environment, and replicate the excellence we have all come to expect, does not appear likely in the midst of this global crisis. As we have learned our athletes are under tremendous pressure, stress and anxiety, and their mental health and wellness is among our highest priorities,” writes USATF CEO Max Siegel to Sarah Hirshland, his counterpart at the USOPC.

    Tim Hinchey of USA Swimming says an equal field of play no longer exists for Olympics in 2020.

    “Our world class swimmers are always willing to race anyone, anytime an anywhere; however, pressing forward amidst the global health crisis this summer is not the answer.

    "The right and responsible thing to do is to prioritize everyone’s health and safety and appropriately recognize the toll this global pandemic is taking on athletic preparations. It has transcended borders and wreaked havoc on entire populations, including those of our respected competitors. Everyone has experienced unimaginable disruptions, mere months before the Olympic Games, which calls into question the authenticity of a level playing field for all,” says Hinchey in his letter to the USOPC.

    Hirshland and USOPC Chair Susanne Lyons responded to Hinchey saying they want to wait further before calling for the IOC to take action.

    “The USOPC is in constant communication with senior leadership of the IOC and IPC – and they have also expressed that their focus is on the health and well-being of athletes, and communities around the world, and that they will continue to rely on advice from the World Health Organization as they determine if it is necessary to adapt their position as the situation evolves. They believe that it is premature to make a final call on the date of the Games and we believe that we should afford them the opportunity to gather more data and expert advice before insisting that a decision be made,” say the USOPC leaders.

    “Rest assured we are making your concerns clearly known to them. The USOPC will be leaders in providing accurate advice and honest feedback, and be unfailing advocates of the athletes and their safety, and the necessity of a fair platform for the Games. You have our promise,” says the reply.

    Brazil NOC President Says 2021 Best for Tokyo

    Brazil now joins the small group pf NOCs calling for Tokyo postponement.

    “COB's position is due to the notorious worsening of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has already infected 250,000 people worldwide, and the consequent difficulty for athletes to maintain their best competitive level due to the need to stop training and competitions on a global scale,” says the statement from COB President Paulo Wanderley

    “As a judoka and former coach of the sport, I learned that the dream of every athlete is to compete in the Olympic Games in their best conditions. It is clear that, at this moment, maintaining the Games for this year will prevent this dream from being fully realized,” says Wanderley.

    Willie Banks Urges Games Move Forward

    Triple jump gold medalist Willie Banks supports holding the Tokyo Olympics, one way or another, but not cancellation.

    Banks was hoping to compete in Moscow for the U.S. in 1980, but was blocked by the Jimmy Carter–ordered boycott.

    “I am interested in seeing the Games go on. I am one of the athletes who had to deal with a boycott and I am very sensitive to what a lost Olympic Games could mean to our athletes. On the other hand, it is important to make sure we are all safe. I think, eventually, the timing will be adjusted for the Tokyo Olympic Games and we will all be better for it,” Banks says in an email to Around the Rings.

    Ice Hockey Cancelled in Switzerland

    It’s no surprise that the 2020 IIHF Men’s World Championship set for Zurich and Lausanne in May is cancelled. The federation pulled the plug in a March 21 meeting of the IIHF Council.

    "This is a harsh reality to face for the international ice hockey family, but one that we must accept,” said IIHF President René Fasel. “The coronavirus is a global problem and requires major efforts by government bodies to combat its spread. The IIHF must do all it can to support this fight. We have to set sport aside for now and support both the government bodies and the ice hockey family,” says Fasel in the IIHF statement.

    The cancellation will also mean no congress for the federation where a successor to Fasel was to be elected. The statement says an alternate date will be chosen.

    More difficult will be finding a place on the calendar to hold the tournament in Switzerland.

    “The potential scenario of a postponement of the World Championship in Switzerland to another year is a matter that must be discussed within the Congress given the fact that the host countries for the forthcoming IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship are fixed until Year 2025. Therefore, such a decision will not be forthcoming until Congress is next in session,” says the IIHF.

    Reported by Ed Hula. For general comments or questions, click here.
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