Fans Barred From Tokyo Olympics Torch Relay Start

Tokyo 2020 logo

 

Spectators will be barred from the start of the Tokyo Olympics torch relay, organisers said Monday, announcing a pared-back launch as the countdown to the postponed Games begins in earnest.

Fans were told to stay away from next week’s “simplified” starting ceremony and the first leg of the nationwide relay, which was put on hold a year ago when the Olympics were delayed over the coronavirus.

“The grand start ceremony and the first section of the Fukushima torch relay… will not be open to the public,” organisers said in a statement, adding that the festivities would be broadcast live online.

The announcement comes ahead of a decision on whether fans from overseas will be allowed to enter Japan for the postponed Games, expected to be taken before the torch relay begins on March 25.

READ ALSO: PSG Loss Overshadowed By Thefts At Di Maria, Marquinhos Homes

Reports last week suggested the Japanese government is set to ban fans from abroad over fears of a rise in infections.

The torch relay will begin in Fukushima prefecture, which last week marked the 10th anniversary of the 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster that left 18,500 dead or missing.

But the torch, headed for the Olympics opening ceremony on July 23, will get a more muted send-off than originally planned.

“In order to allow all possible Covid-19 countermeasures to be taken, the number of participants traveling from Tokyo to the site is being substantially curtailed,” Tokyo 2020 said.

“In addition, the programme has been simplified and the number of performers at the ceremony has been reduced.”

About 3,000 spectators had been expected to attend the relay’s starting ceremony, which will feature a children’s choir and decorations made from flowers from disaster-affected areas.

Members of Japan’s women’s football team will light the torch using the Olympic flame — which has been kept in Japan since the Games were postponed in March 2020.

It will then set off around the country before arriving for the Games’ opening ceremony in Tokyo, with spectators allowed to line the route as long as they obey strict virus countermeasures including a ban on cheering.

Fans will be required to wear masks, avoid crowding, and only attend segments of the relay near their home.

Organisers have warned that “individual relay segments will be suspended if there is a risk of overcrowding”.

Both runners and staff will have to keep detailed health records in the two weeks before their participation and avoid risky activities — including eating out or going to crowded places.

Tokyo 2020 organisers have stressed that public safety will be “top priority” at the Games, and are set to take a decision on overall attendance limits in April.

The organising committee announced Monday that two test events scheduled for late April — for skateboarding and shooting — will now be held in May.

AFP

Former US Olympics Coach Dies By Suicide After Sexual Assault Charges

 In this file photo taken on July 31, 2012, US women gymnastics team's coach John Geddert celebrates with the rest of the team after the US won gold in the women's team artistic gymnastics event at the London Olympic Games. AFP
In this file photo taken on July 31, 2012, US women gymnastics team’s coach John Geddert celebrates with the rest of the team after the US won gold in the women’s team artistic gymnastics event at the London Olympic Games. AFP

 

Former US Olympics women’s gymnastics coach John Geddert died by suicide Thursday, his body found hours after he was charged with human trafficking and abuse of athletes in his care.

“My office has been notified that the body of John Geddert was found late this afternoon after taking his own life,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a statement.

“This is a tragic end to a tragic story for everyone involved.”

Hours earlier Nessel had announced a 24-count criminal complaint against Geddert, who owned an elite training facility near Lansing, Michigan, where convicted sex offender Larry Nassar served as the gym doctor.

In addition to two sexual assault charges involving an unnamed athlete between the ages of 13 and 16, 20 counts of human trafficking and forced labor were the result of Geddert’s alleged coercive and abusive coaching practices “as he reportedly subjected his athletes to forced labor or services under extreme conditions that contributed to them suffering injuries and harm.”

“Geddert then neglected those injuries that were reported to him by the victims and used coercion, intimidation, threats and physical force to get them to perform to the standard he expected,” prosecutors said.

Nessel had said at a press conference streamed on social media Thursday morning that Geddert, 63, was expected to surrender to authorities at 2:15 pm on Thursday to be arraigned on the charges.

However, Michigan State Police said that his body was found at a highway rest area outside Lansing at 3:24 pm.

“Investigation is ongoing; no further details will be released at this time,” the police statement said.

Geddert coached the US women’s gymnastics team to gold at the 2012 London Olympics.

He came under scrutiny because of his close personal and professional relationship with Nassar, the former US national team doctor sentenced to life in prison over the sexual abuse of multiple young female gymnasts over almost three decades under the guise of medical treatment.

A personal coach to US gymnast Jordyn Wieber and owner of the Twistars training facility, Geddert was accused by many Nassar victims of requiring them to be treated by the disgraced doctor, who was convicted of multiple sexual assault charges and finally incarcerated in federal prison in 2018.

USA Gymnastics suspended Geddert in 2018, the year after he insisted he had “zero knowledge” of Nassar’s crimes, and he immediately retired.

Rachael Denhollander, a former gymnast who in 2016 was the first woman to publicly accuse Nassar of sexual assault, tweeted Thursday that Geddert’s abusive behavior was widely known as early as 2000.

“Geddert’s abuse, like so much, was never a secret. EVER,” she tweeted.

“In my memoir I wrote about knowing of it even as a club level gymnast in 2000. Because we have to grapple with the reality that it was known, and no one stopped him. It was known, and he was promoted and given more power.”

Verbal, physical, sexual abuse

In three weeks of sentencing hearings for Nassar, in which some 200 women, girls and victims’ families confronted him, Twistars gymnasts said they had endured physical and verbal abuse by Geddert.

Prosecutors stressed on Thursday that the only charge against Geddert specifically linked to Nassar was that of lying to authorities when asked whether he knew the doctor was sexually abusing athletes.

Otherwise, they said, “the crimes alleged against Mr Geddert are his own.”

“These allegations focus on multiple acts of verbal, physical and sexual abuse perpetrated by the defendant against multiple victims,” Nessel said of charges stemming from incidents between 2008 and 2018.

“I am grateful for these survivors coming forward to cooperate with our investigation and for bravely sharing their stories.”

Geddert was also charged with racketeering, with prosecutors alleging he trafficked 15 athletes for financial gain and with lying to authorities investigating Nassar.

Nessel acknowledged that the forced labor-human trafficking charges “have not typically been used and applied to the set of circumstances that I think exist in this case.”

But, she said, months of reviewing case law convinced prosecutors they were applicable.

“The victims suffer from disordered eating, including bulimia and anorexia, suicide attempts, and self-harm,” Nessel said, adding that Geddert subjected his gymnasts to “excessive physical conditioning, repeatedly being forced to perform even while injured, extreme emotional abuse and physical abuse, including sexual assault.”

Coronavirus, Rights Concerns Cloud Beijing Olympics As One-Year Countdown Starts

The Olympic Rings are pictured in front of the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Lausanne on March 21, 2020, as doubts increase over whether Tokyo can safely host the summer Games amid the spread of the COVID-19. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP.

 

 

The countdown to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics hit the one-year mark Thursday with preparations overshadowed by the coronavirus and concerns over alleged human rights abuses, including a mass incarceration in Xinjiang.

The Winter Olympics are scheduled to begin on February 4, 2022, just six months after the Tokyo Summer Games, which were pushed back one year because of the pandemic.

With the global health crisis showing no signs of abating, Tokyo’s fate remains uncertain despite Japan’s insistence that it will go ahead.

China says its build-up has not been affected and all 12 competition venues — which include new sites and some revamped from the 2008 Summer Olympics — have been completed, according to state media.

On Wednesday, a coalition of 180 campaign groups demanded a boycott by world leaders “to ensure they are not used to embolden the Chinese government’s appalling rights abuses and crackdowns on dissent”.

A group of US senators said Beijing should be stripped of the Games, although the White House said there was no change to the United States’ official stance.

China has dismissed such calls, describing them as “very irresponsible” and politically motivated.

Striking an upbeat tone last month, President Xi Jinping said: “Not only will we host a successful Winter Olympic extravaganza, but also a spectacular Games with unique characteristics.”

But the 12-month countdown to the first Winter Olympics in China looks set to begin with little fanfare.

In August 2007, one year before Beijing staged the 2008 Summer Games, an estimated 10,000 people packed Tiananmen Square for a spectacular ceremony.

The coronavirus makes large public gatherings impossible even though China, where the coronavirus emerged late last year, has brought the outbreak largely under control with lockdowns, mass testing and travel restrictions.

A recent small uptick in cases, including in the capital, has put China’s ruling Communist Party on edge.

The local organising committee failed to respond to requests for comment about how the ongoing health alert might impact the Games, including whether spectators might be barred.

The International Olympic Committee said in a statement to AFP that it is “identifying possible scenarios we may face in Beijing next year”.

A “task force” including IOC, Chinese and World Health Organization officials “is closely monitoring the global health situation, advancement and distribution of vaccines, testing methods and other major health and hygiene developments in relation to COVID-19”, it said.

– Incarcerated in camps –
China hopes the Games will boost the popularity of winter sports at home and show the country in a positive light abroad.

But there is growing international concern over human rights, in particular the fate of China’s Uighur minority.

Rights groups believe that at least one million Uighurs and other Turkic-speaking Muslims are incarcerated in camps in the western region of Xinjiang.

China is accused of compelling Uighurs to parrot Communist propaganda and renounce Islam, forcibly sterilising women and imposing a regime of forced labour, all in an alleged effort to eradicate their identity.

The former Trump administration labelled it “genocide”.

After initially denying the camps existed, China’s government abruptly acknowledged them, saying they were vocational training centres aimed at reducing the appeal of Islamic extremism.

The IOC told AFP that concerns raised by campaign groups, including over rights, “were and are raised with the government and local authorities”.

“The Olympic Games are the world’s most powerful symbol of unity in all our diversity,” the IOC said.

But Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch, said the already poor rights environment has deteriorated “exponentially” since the 2008 Beijing Games, which were seen as a coming-out party for the world’s most populous country.

“At minimum the IOC has to be honest about the context in which these Games will take place,” she said.

Japan Denies Cancelling Olympics

The Olympic Rings are pictured in front of the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Lausanne on March 21, 2020, as doubts increase over whether Tokyo can safely host the summer Games amid the spread of the COVID-19. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP.

 

Japan dismissed a report claiming officials see cancelling the Tokyo Olympics as inevitable on Friday, as Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said he was “determined” to hold the Games.

Deputy government spokesman Manabu Sakai there was “no truth” to the report in The Times, which quoted an unnamed ruling coalition source as saying “the consensus is that it’s too difficult” to hold the Games.

It is the latest article to cast doubt on the Games, which were postponed over the coronavirus last year but have been hit by a surge in cases and plunging public support.

“I am determined to realise a safe and secure Tokyo Games as proof that mankind will have overcome the virus,” Suga insisted on Friday.

Games organisers also said they were “fully focused on hosting the Games this summer”.

READ ALSO: Japanese Minister Concedes ‘Anything Can Happen’ With Tokyo Olympics

But Sakai said a decision on hosting the Games was looming for Japan, a statement that appeared to deviate from the government’s stated position.

“At some point in time, we will naturally make a decision as to whether to actually hold it,” he said.

“Until then the Japanese government will do what it needs to do and make progress and prepare for it.”

Concerns have risen as Japan battles a third wave of virus infections, with polls showing around 80 percent of Japanese oppose hosting the event this year.

But International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said there was “no reason whatsoever” for them not to go ahead on July 23 as scheduled.

“This is why there is no plan B,” he told Japan’s Kyodo news agency.

‘The Tokyo Games are on’

The IOC took the unprecedented decision to postpone the Games last March after Australia and Canada said they would not be sending teams to Tokyo as the pandemic worsened.

On Friday, Australian Olympic Committee CEO Matt Carroll ruled out another withdrawal, calling reports of the Games’ cancellation “unfounded rumour”.

“The Tokyo Games are on,” he told reporters in Sydney.

“The flame will be lit on the 23rd of July 2021. This has just been reconfirmed again by the Japanese prime minister this afternoon in parliament in Tokyo.

“It will be a very different Games, simpler, with a focus on the athletes and their competitions.”

Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto told AFP this week that the organising committee is “unwavering” on holding the event this year, but couldn’t rule out staging it without spectators.

But domestically there is rising doubt, with opposition lawmakers in parliament on Thursday calling for the Games to be postponed or cancelled.

And on Friday, the Tokyo Medical Association called for the event to be held behind closed doors.

“They must give up the idea of having the festivity of the century by inviting people from various countries,” its chairman Haruo Ozaki told the Asahi Shimbun newspaper.

“The feasibility of holding it with no spectators should be considered.

 

AFP

Tokyo Olympics Organisers Say Cancellation Report ‘Fake News’

The Olympic Rings are pictured in front of the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Lausanne on March 21, 2020, as doubts increase over whether Tokyo can safely host the summer Games amid the spread of the COVID-19. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP.

 

Tokyo Olympics organisers played down a poll showing plunging support for the Games on Tuesday and said a report claiming cancellation could be discussed next month was “fake news”.

The comments, less than 200 days before the postponed Games start in July, come with greater Tokyo under a state of emergency over a spike in coronavirus cases and with countries around the world battling outbreaks.

In a New Year’s address to staff, Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto put a positive spin on a Kyodo news poll published Sunday showing 45 percent want the 2020 Games delayed again, with 35 percent favouring outright cancellation.

“The number of people calling for it to be cancelled has only risen by about five percent,” Muto said.

“The number of people calling for it to be postponed has risen a lot, but that means those people still want it to be held,” he added.

“Of course, for it to be held, we have to guarantee that we hold a safe Games with anti-virus measures. If you think of it in those terms, I firmly believe people will get more and more behind it.”

British rowing great Matthew Pinsent has called for the Games to be cancelled and Tokyo to host the event in 2024 instead, replacing Paris.

Muto also dismissed as “fake news” a Japanese media report claiming the International Olympic Committee and Tokyo 2020 organisers would debate the fate of the Games in February.

“When these types of reports surface, some people might feel anxious about them,” said Muto.

“I want to say that we are not thinking that way at all, and that these reports are wrong.”

Los Angeles 2028 Commits To Delivering Innovative Games

US President Donald Trump speaks with Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf (L) as he participates in a briefing with the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee and LA 2028 Organizers in Beverly Hills, California, on February 18, 2020. AFP

 

The first meeting of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Coordination Commission for the Olympic Games Los Angeles 2028 (LA28) has been concluded, with updates detailing the strong foundations laid by the Local Organising Committee.

The discussion focused on the committee’s achievements to date and plans for the coming months as it looks to deliver innovative Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The Commission, chaired by IOC Executive Board member Nicole Hoevertsz from Aruba, focused on a number of areas during two days of virtual meetings. Topics included LA28’s vision and mission, sport and venue plans, as well as the success of its brand and commercial programmes.

IOC President, Thomas Bach joined the opening of the meeting to share his appreciation for all the work being done by the team in Los Angeles despite the difficulties caused by COVID-19.

Bach charged the commission to stay focused on the objectives of the games.

“2020 has provided unprecedented challenges to the world and the Olympic Movement, but we have demonstrated that flexibility and innovation will be embraced to adapt to the new landscape and deliver Olympic Games fit for a post-corona world. We have shown in recent months that we are indeed stronger together. This was uniquely illustrated in the launch of the LA28 brand last month and the Organising Committee’s innovative and creative approach receiving plaudits from across the world.”

He further stated: “From its inception, the LA28 project has embedded the very essence of Olympic Agenda 2020 in all its strategic plans. These recommendations have opened the door to leverage the unique level of existing event experience present in Los Angeles and the ability to embrace an event-centred approach to planning and delivery. These Games will therefore leave a positive legacy for the citizens of Los Angeles and the United States at large.”

Speaking about the work of the Organising Committee, the Coordination Commission’s Chair Nicole Hoevertsz said: “We are really pleased with the progress made by the team in Los Angeles, highlighted by the launch of their unique brand and agreements with a number of high-profile commercial partners.”

“The extensive dialogue we’ve had over the past two days has been very encouraging, reinforcing LA28’s determination to deliver a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will leave a legacy for generations of Americans to enjoy. They’ve made a great start and, over the coming years, we look forward to working closely with them, drawing upon the abundance of event expertise within the city and utilising the experience of those within this Commission to deliver truly memorable Games in 2028.”

LA28 Chairperson Casey Wasserman is confident Los Angeles will do a great job in hosting the games.

“Los Angeles is a city that is always changing and evolving. It’s a place where creativity and innovation thrive. As a world-class sports and entertainment city with a creative edge, Los Angeles is built to host the Games and deliver fans and athletes an unparalleled Olympic and Paralympic experience.”

With Los Angeles preparing to host its third Olympic Games and first Paralympic Games, one of its first major landmarks was highlighted to the Commission.

The launch of the LA28 brand on 1 September revealed an animated emblem, built for the digital age and designed to evolve over time. Anchored with a bold and static L, 2 and 8, the LA28 emblem allows for an exceptional spectrum of stories through an interchanging dynamic ‘A’, illustrated through variations created by athletes, artists and advocates connected to Los Angeles.

Updates were also provided on the Organising Committee’s early commercial success. This was highlighted by the confirmation of LA28’s first ‘Founding Partner’, several licensing agreements and more announcements in the pipeline.

Another area on which the Organising Committee reiterated its commitment to deliver is its youth sports promise. As part of awarding the 2028 Games to Los Angeles, LA28 and the IOC agreed that up to USD 160 million would be invested in local youth sports leading up to the Games. While delayed due to COVID-19, discussions centred on the next steps for this project.

LA28’s venue masterplan was another important topic covered. Embracing the Olympic Movement’s commitment to sustainability and legacy, and to contributing towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the 2028 Games will not require the construction of any new venues.

The Commission agreed that this will allow LA28 to focus more on delivering an unforgettable experience for everyone involved in the Games, as well as developing innovative engagement activities designed to bring new fans into the Olympic and Paralympic movements.

Qatar Announces Bid To Host 2032 Olympics

Qatar is set to host the 2022 World Cup.
Qatar is set to host the 2022 World Cup.

 

Qatar will seek to host the 2032 Olympic Games, it said on Monday, joining a crowded field and raising questions about scorching summer temperatures and underwhelming attendances at past events.

India, Australia’s Queensland state, the Chinese city of Shanghai and a potential joint bid between South and North Korea are also being touted for the 2032 summer games.

Under changes put forward in 2014, interested countries submit a request to join the non-committal “continuous dialogue”, which Qatar confirmed to AFP it had done via a letter to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Lausanne.

“Today’s announcement marks the beginning of a meaningful dialogue with the IOC’s Future Host Commission to explore our interest further and identify how the Olympic Games can support Qatar’s long-term development goals,” Qatar Olympic Committee president Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani told AFP in a statement.

Qatar unsuccessfully bid to host the 2016 and 2020 games, having proposed to host the former in October without first clearing it with the IOC.

It won a waiver to propose hosting the 2020 games, a joint bid with Baku, Azerbaijan, between September 20 and October 20, but failed to make the shortlist.

The 2020 games, postponed to 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic, were awarded to Japan, which also experiences searing summer temperatures, leading officials to schedule events early in the morning when conditions are coolest.

“Qatar has earned the reputation of a world-class destination for major sporting events,” added Sheikh Joaan, brother of Qatar’s ruler Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani.

“It is this proven track-record and wealth of experience, along with our desire to use sport to promote peace and cultural exchange, that will form the basis of our discussions with the Commission.”

Summer temperatures can reach 50 degrees celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit) in the nation which abuts the Arabian desert. Heat and humidity were major issues during the road races at last year’s World Athletics Championships held in Doha.

The event was shifted to late September and October over concerns about the gas-rich state’s climate and marathons and race walks were held at midnight.

Even so, humidity hovered around 73 percent and the temperature was 33 degrees Celsius (91 degrees Fahrenheit) for much of the women’s marathon and images of the runners collapsing and gasping for air led to questions over Qatar’s suitability to host outdoor events outside the cooler winter months.

‘Huge interest’

Perhaps the most stinging off-track criticism of the 10-day World Athletics event was sparked by the spectacle of a near-empty stadium during the opening days, raising fears for World Cup attendances in 2022 and at other sporting events.

IAAF President Sebastian Coe said he was more worried about conditions at the Tokyo Olympics, where summer temperatures have pushed organisers to schedule events for the early morning.

(FILES) In this file photo taken on March 16, 2020 A man wearing a mask as a precaution against COVID-19 coronavirus disease, walks along the Doha corniche in the Qatari capital. QATAR OUT / AFP.

 

Qatar will host the 2022 World Cup after a bid process that has been attacked by some European nations and media outlets as corrupt, although Doha insists it won fairly.

Discriminatory labour practices and human rights issues facing the migrant labourers building infrastructure for 2022 have been subject to intense scrutiny and criticism since Qatar won the bid in 2010.

“We in the International Olympic Committee are happy with the huge interest in the 2032 Summer Olympics, 12 years before the launch of the games. We are in a great position,” IOC president Thomas Bach said in an interview with Qatar-based broadcaster BeIN on Friday.

“We made sure that our new approach to this kind of intentions works well. We launched a dialogue between the interested national Olympic committees and a special commission in the IOC. Naturally, we welcome Qatar to join this dialogue.”

If Qatar were successful, it would be the first time the event had been held in the Middle East.

 

 

AFP

Olympic Figure Skater Alexandrovskaya Dies Aged 20

This file photo taken on October 27, 2018 shows Ekaterina Alexandrovskaya and Harley Windsor of Australia performing their free skate during the pairs competition at the 2018 Skate Canada International ISU Grand Prix event in Laval, Quebec. - Ekaterina Alexandrovskaya, who represented Australia at the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, has died aged 20 after falling out of the window in Moscow, her coach said on July 18, 2020. (Photo by Geoff Robins / AFP)
(FILES) This file photo taken on October 27, 2018 shows Ekaterina Alexandrovskaya and Harley Windsor of Australia performing their free skate during the pairs competition at the 2018 Skate Canada International ISU Grand Prix event in Laval, Quebec. – Ekaterina Alexandrovskaya, who represented Australia at the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, has died aged 20 after falling out of the window in Moscow, her coach said on July 18, 2020. (Photo by Geoff Robins / AFP)

 

 

Ekaterina Alexandrovskaya, who represented Australia at the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, has died aged 20 after falling out of the window in Moscow, her coach said on Saturday.

There was no immediate comment from Russian law enforcement agencies but Alexandrovskaya’s coach Andrei Khekalo told AFP the young woman had fallen from a sixth-floor window in central Moscow.

Russian media said she had left a note reading “Lyublyu (I love)”, suggesting it could have been a suicide.

Khekalo said Alexandrovskaya missed a training session in January and was afterward diagnosed with epilepsy and quit the sport.

Even before she was diagnosed with epilepsy she suffered from depression, he added.

“I tried to get her to stay in sport at my own peril,” Khekalo said.

He said she was particularly good at pairs skating. “She was fearless. She was like a fish in the water,” he added.

Overlooked by the Russian system, Alexandrovskaya switched countries and partnered up with Harley Windsor, who eventually became Australia’s first Aboriginal athlete to take part in the Winter Olympics.

The pair were crowned world junior champions in 2017, claiming Australia’s first global figure skating title and getting the nod for the Olympics in Pyeongchang.

Windsor said he was “devastated and sick to my core about the sad and sudden passing of Katia”.

“The amount we had achieved during our partnership is something I can never forget and will always hold close to my heart,” he said in a statement on Instagram.

Peter Lynch, president at Ice Skating Australia, called Alexandrovskaya “a brilliant athlete with incredible drive and determination”.

She and Windsor “did what many thought impossible”, he said in a statement.

“Together they created greatness that will rest in the Australian record books for many years.”

 

 

-AFP

2021 Olympics Will Be Cancelled If Pandemic Not Over – Games Chief

The Olympic Rings are pictured in front of the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Lausanne on March 21, 2020, as doubts increase over whether Tokyo can safely host the summer Games amid the spread of the COVID-19. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP.

 

The postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics will have to be cancelled if the coronavirus pandemic isn’t brought under control by next year, the organising committee’s president said in comments published Tuesday.

The pandemic has already forced a year-long delay of the Games — which are now scheduled to open on July 23, 2021 — but Tokyo 2020 president Yoshiro Mori said no further postponement was possible.

In an interview with Japan’s Nikkan Sports daily, Mori was categorical when asked if the Olympics could be delayed until 2022 if the pandemic remains a threat next year, replying: “No.”

“In that case, it’s cancelled,” Mori said.

Mori noted the Games had been cancelled previously only during wartime, and compared the battle against coronavirus to “fighting an invisible enemy”.

If the virus is successfully contained, “we’ll hold the Olympics in peace next summer”, he added. “Mankind is betting on it.”

Masa Takaya, a Tokyo 2020 spokesman, declined to comment on a possible cancellation of the Games, telling reporters that Mori’s remarks were based on “the chairman’s own thoughts”.

Japanese organisers and the International Olympic Committee, under heavy pressure from athletes and international sports federations, agreed in March to a year-long postponement of the Games.

READ MORE: UN Tells Firms To Make Worker Returns Safe As COVID-19 Lockdowns Ease

Organisers and Japanese officials have said the delayed Olympics will be a chance to showcase the world’s triumph over the coronavirus, but questions have arisen about whether even a year’s postponement is sufficient.

On Tuesday, the head of Japan Medical Association warned it would be “exceedingly difficult” to hold the Games next year if a vaccine has not been found.

“I would not say that they should not be held, but it would be exceedingly difficult,” Yoshitake Yokokura told reporters at a briefing.

And last week a Japanese medical expert who has criticised the country’s response to the coronavirus warned that he was “very pessimistic” that the postponed Olympics can be held in 2021.

“To be honest with you I don’t think the Olympics is likely to be held next year,” said Kentaro Iwata, a professor of infectious diseases at Kobe University, at a briefing.

But Tokyo 2020 spokesman Takaya countered that even medical experts said it was too early to make a judgement on such a possibility.

In the interview, Mori also said organisers were considering holding joint opening and closing ceremonies for the Olympics and the Paralympics in an effort to cut costs.

Under the plan, the Paralympics would join the Olympic opening ceremony on July 23, and the Olympic closing ceremony would be integrated into the Paralympics closing event in September.

But Mori admitted that Tokyo organisers had not yet obtained the consent of the IOC and their Paralympic counterparts on that plan.

“It’s going to a considerable cut in costs and a big message of victory against the global crisis, but it’s not easy,” Mori said.

AFP

IOC Admits Postponing Olympics An Option, But Cancellation ‘Not On Agenda’

The Olympic Rings are pictured in front of the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Lausanne on March 21, 2020, as doubts increase over whether Tokyo can safely host the summer Games amid the spread of the COVID-19. The global sporting calendar has been swept away by the coronavirus pandemic but the International Olympic Committee has insisted the Tokyo Games will go ahead in four months despite growing calls for a postponement.
Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP.

 

The International Olympic Committee said Sunday that postponing the 2020 Olympics is one of its options as the world grapples with the coronavirus pandemic, but that cancellation of the Tokyo showpiece was “not on the agenda”.

The IOC has faced strong pressure to push back the Games, scheduled from July 24 to August 9, from sporting federations and athletes worried about the health risk as the COVID-19 global death tally went past 13,000 on Sunday.

IOC president Thomas Bach said a decision on when the Games take place would be made “within the next four weeks”.

“Human lives take precedence over everything, including the staging of the Games,” Bach wrote in an open letter to athletes.

“We have, as indicated before, been thinking in different scenarios and are adapting them almost day by day.”

But, he added that “there are significant improvements in Japan” and he still had hopes the Games could be held on schedule, even if that would present logistical difficulties.

“A final decision about the date of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 now would still be premature,” he said.

READ ALSO: China Embarks On Clinical Trial For Coronavirus Vaccine

Bach explained that the IOC was discussing its options with health authorities and stakeholders.

“We are confident that we will have finalised these discussions within the next four weeks.”

He made clear that there would a Games in Tokyo at some point.

“Cancellation would not solve any problem and would help nobody,” Bach said. “Therefore it is not on our agenda.”

– Thumbs down-

The idea of holding the Games on schedule has drawn a swelling chorus of objections.

On Sunday, nine-time Olympic track and field champion Carl Lewis, as well as the head of French athletics added their voices to the US and French swimming federations, the US and Spanish athletics federations, the Norwegian Olympic Committee and past and current athletes.

Sprinter and long jumper Lewis, who won gold at four different Olympics, told Houston television station KRIV, that he backed calls for postponement.

“I just think it’s really difficult for an athlete to prepare, to train, to keep their motivation if there’s complete uncertainty. That’s the hardest thing,” he said.

“I think a more comfortable situation would be two years and put it in the Olympic year with the Winter Olympics (Beijing 2022) and then make it kind of a celebratory Olympic year.”

World Athletics, the governing body of track and field, said they were “ready to work with the IOC and all sport on an alternative date”.

“World Athletics welcomes discussions with the IOC to postpone the Tokyo Olympic Games and wrote to the IOC earlier today to relay this feedback from its Area Presidents, Council and athletes,” it said in a statement.

On Saturday, World Athletics president Sebastian Coe told AFP that the sporting world was in “uncharted territory”.

“I don’t think we should have the Olympic Games at all costs, certainly not at the cost of athlete safety,” said Coe.

US media reported on Sunday that American athletes had voted during a virtual town hall with US Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) officials and given Tokyo the thumbs down.

Almost three-quarters of the 300 athletes who met online with USOPC supported delaying the Games, USA Today reported.

In all, 70 percent of the athletes supported a postponement with another 23 percent saying it would depend on the consequences, according to details supplied by a member of the USOPC Athletes Advisory Council.

– ‘Really selfish’ –

Almost a quarter wanted a decision no later than April 15, while 18 percent wanted an immediate decision.

“I feel the IOC is being really, really selfish in trying to push it,” US hammer thrower Gwen Berry said. “And there’s no need to push it.”

US swim and athletics trials to determine the nation’s two largest Olympic delegations are set for June.

“The right and responsible thing to do is to prioritise everyone’s health and safety and appropriately recognise the toll this difficult situation has, and continues to take, on our athletes and their Olympic Games preparations,” said USA Track and Field chief Max Siegel.

“For those reasons, USATF is respectfully requesting that the USOPC advocate to the IOC for the postponement of the 2020 Olympic Games.”

The head of the French athletics federation said postponement was inevitable.

“Everyone agrees that the Games cannot be held on the dates planned,” Andre Giraud said.

“If the crisis is contained by the end of May, we can envisage a postponement of the Games to the autumn. But Plan C would be a six-month or one-year postponement,” he said.

AFP

Defiant Olympic Chiefs Face Increased Pressure To Postpone Tokyo 2020

The Olympic Rings are pictured in front of the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Lausanne on March 21, 2020. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

 

Pressure mounted on Olympic organisers to postpone the 2020 Tokyo Games on Saturday after the powerful US track and field federation urged this summer’s event be pushed back due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The IOC had refusal to cancel the Olympics, saying that the Games were further away than other shelved events.

USA Track and Field became the latest influential sports body to ask for the Games to be called off after its head Max Siegel “respectfully requested” in a letter that the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) “advocate … for the postponement of the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo”.

USOPC had said it was too soon to axe the July 24-August 9 Games, much like International Olympic Committee (IOC) head Thomas Bach, who said that it would be “premature” to make such a big decision.

“The right and responsible thing to do is to prioritise everyone’s health and safety and appropriately recognise the toll this difficult situation has and continues to take on our athletes and their Olympic Games preparations,” wrote Siegel.

USATF joined a growing chorus of calls from sports organisations to push back the Olympics, a day after the country’s swimming federation asked USOPC to back a postponement until 2021.

“We urge the USOPC, as a leader within the Olympic Movement, to use its voice and speak up for the athletes,” USA Swimming CEO Tim Hinchey said in a letter.

That request for a delay was echoed on Saturday by France’s swimming federation which said that the Games could not be organised properly in the “current context”.

World Athletics president Sebastian Coe told AFP on Saturday that the sporting world was in “uncharted territory”.

“We have another meeting early next week to discuss the work, given the number of athletes who are struggling to train in various countries due to measures put in place to reduce the spread of the coronavirus,” said Coe.

“I don’t think we should have the Olympic Games at all costs, certainly not at the cost of athlete safety and a decision on the Olympic Games may become very obvious very quickly in the coming days and weeks.

“The issue of competition fairness is paramount. We are all managing the situation day by day and increasingly hour by hour.”

The Norwegian Olympic Committee (NOC) quickly followed, saying that it had sent a letter to the IOC on Friday, motivated in part by a Norwegian government ban on organised sports activities which had created “a very challenging time for the sports movement in Norway”.

“Our clear recommendation is that the Olympic Games in Tokyo shall not take place before the COVID-19 situation is under firm control on a global scale,” the NOC said in the letter.

IOC ‘putting us in danger’

The new chairman of the United Kingdom’s athletics governing body also questioned the need to hold the Olympics this summer given the uncertainty surrounding the spread of COVID-19, which has now killed over 12,000 people worldwide according to an AFP tally.

“To leave it where it is creating so much pressure in the system. It now has to be addressed,” head of UK Athletics Nic Coward told the BBC.

On Friday, Bach defended the IOC’s refusal to cancel the Olympics by saying that the Games were further away than other shelved events, such as football’s European Championship which was due to start in mid-June and has been moved to 2021.

“We are four-and-a-half months away from the Games,” Bach told the New York Times.

“For us, (postponement) would not be responsible now.”

Athletes lashed out at IOC advice to continue training “as best they can”, with Olympic pole vault champion Katerina Stefanidi accusing the body of “putting us in danger”.

“The IOC wants us to keep risking our health, our family’s health and public health to train every day?” asked Stefanidi.

World champion fencer Race Imboden of the United States said on Twitter that he was “worried” about the prospect of the Olympics going ahead.

“We keep being told the Olympic Games are happening. Starting to realise it’s more important to have the games go on than the athletes be prepared or mentally healthy.”

But USOPC chairwoman Susanne Lyons insisted on Friday that organisers had time on their side.

“We don’t have to make a decision. Our games are not next week, or two weeks from now. They’re four months from now,” Lyons said.

AFP

Tokyo Olympics May Be Postponed Due To Covid-19 – Athletics Chief

An athlete holds the Olympic torch during the olympic flame handover ceremony for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, on March 19, 2020 in Athens. ARIS MESSINIS / AFP / POOL
An athlete holds the Olympic torch during the olympic flame handover ceremony for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, on March 19, 2020 in Athens. ARIS MESSINIS / AFP / POOL

 

World athletics chief Sebastian Coe admitted on Thursday that the Tokyo Olympics could be moved to later in the year by the coronavirus outbreak, but said it was too early to make a definitive decision.

Olympic bosses acknowledged on Wednesday there was no “ideal” solution as a growing number of athletes expressed concern.

The COVID-19 pandemic is playing havoc with the global sporting calendar, forcing the postponement of Euro 2020 and a suspension of the tennis season.

International Olympic Committee chairman Thomas Bach said earlier this week that starting on schedule on July 24 remained the organisation’s goal.

But Coe, who is a member of the Tokyo Olympics Games Coordination Commission, conceded in an interview with the BBC that a delay was possible.

“That is possible, anything is possible at the moment,” said Coe when asked whether the Games could be postponed to September or October.

“But I think the position that sport has certainly taken, and it was certainly the temperature of the room in the conversation I had the other day with the IOC and our other federations, is that nobody is saying we will be going to the Games come what may.

“But it isn’t a decision that has to be made at this moment.”

Coe, who played a pivotal role in securing the Olympics for London in 2012, said postponing the Games until 2021 could present problems.

“That seems on the surface of it an easy proposition, but member federations actually avoid Olympic years often to have their world championships,” he said.

Britain’s retired four-time rowing Olympic gold medallist Matthew Pinsent called for decisive action.

“On a global front we have other priorities and I think the Olympics should at the very least be saying we should postpone or indeed just cancel at this stage and we’ll talk about postponement later on,” he told the BBC.

“I just don’t think there’s much of a choice at this stage.”

AFP