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Olympics Committee Member Says Summer Games in Tokyo Will Be Postponed

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Olympics Committee Member Says Summer Games in Tokyo Will Be Postponed

2020-03-24 13:30:351 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Tokyo 2020 Official Logo (Image source: Public domain)

Many of us wait for the summer to hit every four years to watch the summer Olympics. There have often been international disputes that threatened the Games, but this time its the global pandemic of coronavirus COVID-19 that is threatening this summer's games in Tokyo, Japan.

The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) has suggested that the Games should be postponed, yet not canceled, while a member of the International Olympics Committee (IOC) has said it will be postponed, while officially the committee has not announced a decision. 

There are around 11,000 athletes expected in Tokyo at the Games that are scheduled to be held between July 24 and August 9. While it would be a nightmare to postpone and reorganize, travel is limited in many countries, with some of them being on lockdown and not even allowing citizens outside of their homes.

As of Tuesday morning, Japan has reported 1,120 cases of coronavirus, with 42 deaths and 285 recoveries. While it's definitely less than the United States, as New York state alone has 20,000 confirmed cases as of Tuesday, it's more than other nations have. 

The USOPC sent a survey to its 4,000 athletes to see where their heads were regarding carrying on, postponing, or canceling the Olympic games.  45 percent of the athletes responded, with 93 percent of those who answered suggesting the IOC should postpone the Olympics rather than canceling them outright. 65 percent admitted COVID-19 was making it difficult to train, and 68 percent said they don't think the Games could be "conducted on a fair playing field if they continue as scheduled."

"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," said USOPC board chair Susanne Lyons and CEO Sarah Hirshland in a joint statement. 

"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."

New Zealand's Olympic Committee agreed with the USOPC's decision after it, too, sent a survey to its members and received the same answers. 

"Our focus is first and foremost the athletes,"  New Zealand Olympic Committee CEO Kereyn Smith said in a statement. "It has been important to us to give them the opportunity to talk to us. We value their resilience and flexibility, and we know working through the changes won't be easy."

"We support their position and will now share their views with the IOC as we advocate internationally on behalf of New Zealand athletes and sport. We reiterate the need for a swift decision," the statement added. 

These statements were just one day after Canada was the first country to issue a warning that it won't be sending its athletes to Tokyo if they are postponed by a year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

"While we recognize the inherent complexities around a postponement, nothing is more important than the health and safety of our athletes and the world community," said the  Canadian Olympic Committee in a statement. "This is not solely about athlete health — it is about public health." 

The Australian Olympic Committee issued a similar warning, following Canada.

Other than in two world wars, the Olympics have never been canceled since the modern form of the Games began in 1896. Both the IOC and Tokyo 2020 organizers have insisted for the past six weeks the Olympic games will take place as planned. 

However, on Monday, the longest-serving member of the IOC, Dick Pound, said the decision has been made to cancel the games.

"On the basis of the information the IOC has, postponement has been decided," he told USA Today. "The parameters going forward have not been determined, but the Games are not going to start on July 24, that much I know. 

Yet the IOC on Tuesday said regarding Pound's comment, "It is the right of every IOC member to interpret the decision of the IOC Executive Board which was announced [Sunday]."

Tokyo organizing committee chief Yoshiro Mori discussed the possibility of postponing the Olympics earlier this week. Delaying the Games was suggested as one of the contingency plans under consideration. A decision will be made in four weeks. 

The former Japanese prime minister advised that there would be a financial hit for both the IOC and Tokyo if the Games are postponed and also acknowledged the organizers are aware of the opinions of the athletes and Olympic committees.

In a speech to parliament, current Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said if the Olympics can't be held in its "complete form," it could be postponed. "If that becomes difficult, we may have no option but to consider postponing the Games," he acknowledged. 

IOS President Thomas Bach said a decision will come down in four weeks.

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