Coronavirus: Tokyo 2020 athletes vote overwhelmingly in favour of cancelling Olympics

Athletics Association asked competitors whether they were happy to compete in Tokyo this summer with a heavily-disrupted preparation due to the coronavirus outbreak, with the results leaving little in doubt over what they want the IOC to do

Jack de Menezes
Monday 23 March 2020 13:47
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Coronavirus: How has sport been affected?

The Athletics Association have released eye-opening figures that show an overwhelming desire to see Tokyo 2020 not just postponed immediately but cancelled altogether due to the dangers of coronavirus.

A number of athletes due to compete at this summer’s Olympic Games, which are due to get underway in Japan on 24 July, have expressed their concern with the International Olympic Committee’s current stance in showing a resolute defiance that Tokyo 2020 will go ahead as planned.

The IOC have been strongly backed by Japanese officials, although Monday saw both the government and the Japan Olympic Committee admit openly for the first time that they are considering a postponement to the Games in order to stage them later in the year.

However the IOC’s update on Sunday night that they will use the next four weeks to make a final decision has not gone done well, with many athletes and paralympians asking what they are supposed to do while training in a world that is largely self-isolating, for an Olympics that looks increasingly likely not to be going ahead.

As a result, the Athletes Association asked 4,000 track and field athletes – more than a third of the total number expected to compete in the Olympics this summer – if they would like to see the Olympics postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak, which 78 per cent responded yes – more than 3,000 of those asked.

However, when asked if they would prefer to see the Games cancelled altogether even though it would wreck nearly four years of preparation and training, the same number responded yes, while 87 per cent revealed that their preparations have been adversely affected by the outbreak of coronavirus.

An Athletes Association statement signed off by president Christian Taylor and Emma Coburn, both past Olympic medallists, revealed the figures that puts further pressure on the IOC to make a final decision sooner rather than later in order to remove the doubt currently blighting athletes, whose training plans largely go against the public health advice currently being issued to tackle coronavirus.

“The Athletes Association recently conducted a survey of track and field athletes all over the world, and the response was overwhelming,” the statement read.

“These are unprecedented times, the world is gripped by a deadly pandemic and what’s clear is that athletes want their voices to be heard.

“Based on our results from over 4,000 track and field athletes that we surveyed, we are calling on the International Olympic Committee to postpone the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. What’s more, we’re imploring the IOC to announce the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics much sooner than in four weeks’ time.

“Whilst we appreciate being told about the new timeframe, we feel it’s unfair to ask athletes to continue to live and train in this limbo. Athletes are risking their health as well as the health of their coaches and families, and indeed wider society, to continue to prepare for an Olympic Games that is likely to be postponed.

“The Olympics is the pinnacle for all competitors in the sport of athletics, but asking athletes to risk their physical and mental health preparing for an Olympic Games in the middle of a pandemic that is crippling the world, is unfair, immoral and shows a huge lack of empathy.”

It follows growing criticism aimed at IOC president Thomas Bach for his defiant stance on the Games taking place, with British athletes Callum Skinner and Dina Asher-Smith leading the complaints.

Skinner, a 2016 Olympic cycling champion and a member of the BOA’s athletes’ commission, was scathing about Bach in a social media post on Monday morning.

“IOC president Thomas Bach’s stubbornness and arrogance has spectacularly failed in this instance and he has weakened the Olympic movement,” Skinner wrote on Twitter.

“This isn’t the first time he has put his own motives above the athletes and the movement.”

Skinner’s post went on to praise those national Olympic committees and international sports federations which have already expressed opposition to the Games going ahead as scheduled.

Sprint star Asher-Smith, who won the 200 metres world title last year, said the IOC’s delay created further uncertainty for competitors.

She wrote on twitter: “So wait... does this mean that athletes face up to another FOUR weeks of finding ways to fit in training – whilst potentially putting ourselves, coaches, support staff and loved ones at risk just to find out they were going to be postponed anyway!!!”

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