As the pleas for the Tokyo Olympics to be postponed continue to echo around the world, Singapore’s sports fraternity has also joined the chorus calling for a reschedule owing to the coronavirus pandemic.

A straw poll conducted by The Straits Times of 20 members of the local sports scene – among them national athletes who had qualified, Olympic prospects and key sports officials – showed that 14 felt that deferring the July 24-Aug 9 Games was the right decision to take.

Five people said a decision should be made at a later date, while one felt that the Olympics should still proceed but behind closed doors.

National Olympic committees from Australia, Brazil, Britain, France, Canada and Norway, as well as international sports federations such as World Athletics, have also called for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to postpone the Games.

In response to queries, the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) did not indicate if it supported that stance, as its spokesman said yesterday it was monitoring “very closely” the current developments surrounding a potential postponement of the Tokyo Games.

Noting that the current predicament is “unprecedented”, the SNOC spokesman added: “We remain in solidarity with our stakeholders, including our athletes, our national sports associations, the IOC and the Singapore Government, in their efforts to contain the virus and protect the community.

“We remain guided by the authorities’ respective health and travel advisories and will continue to work with our stakeholders on safeguarding the interests of our athletes and officials as they pursue their Olympic aspirations.”

However, Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA) president Ellen Lee said it was simply “not tenable” to proceed with the scheduled dates. “As much as we understand that many stakeholders have put in a lot of resources and effort into Tokyo 2020, health and safety are paramount, and we have to look at the bigger picture and do what is best for the long run,” she said.

Table tennis is one of Singapore’s most successful sports at the Olympic Games with a women’s team silver and two bronzes from Beijing 2008 and London 2012 respectively. But Lee added that the STTA would not have an issue if its athletes choose to forgo the event due to virus concerns.

In addition to the women’s table tennis team, Singapore will also be represented by swimmers Joseph Schooling – the reigning 100m butterfly gold medallist – Quah Zheng Wen, diver Jonathan Chan and gymnast Tan Sze En, as well as in the sport of shooting and sailing. The shuttlers and fencers are also targeting to qualify.

Singapore Shooting Association president Michael Vaz said that the athletes would still prepare for the Games until there is an official decree by the IOC or SNOC otherwise.

If the Olympics were to proceed, strict measures have to be in place, said Vaz. He feels athletes should be tested before they leave their country and again when they arrive in Japan, and their temperatures should be recorded twice a day.

Singapore Swimming Association vice-president (swimming) Joscelin Yeo said that the health and well-being of volunteers and fans are also of paramount importance.

The 40-year-old former swimmer, who is the only Singaporean athlete to compete at four Olympic Games (1992 to 2004), said: “The (organisers) have to seriously consider what alternatives are available, because we want to have some sort of guarantee – even though we know it can never be 100 per cent – that people are not at risk of infection.

70% 

Or 14 out of 20 athletes, in a straw poll by the Straits Times, want the Olympics postponed. One wants it to be held as scheduled and five others are undecided. 

FINE BALANCE

We remain guided by the authorities’ respective health and travel advisories and will continue to work with our stakeholders on safeguarding the interests of our athletes and officials as they pursue their Olympic aspirations.

SNOC SPOKESMAN , on the many considerations at stake. 

EVER READY

From the way the IOC and the Tokyo 2020 organising committee have responded, it is only right they prioritise the well-being of athletes and everyone involved. Regardless when the Olympics are postponed to, we will have to prepare pro-actively and positively.

FENG TIANWEI, Singapore’s world No. 9 paddler, on being flexible.

BROKEN CYCLE

Athletes have prepared long and hard for months, even years. If the Olympics are postponed, athletes would have to reset and re-plan an entire cycle to gear towards the Games again.

SINGAPORE OLYMPIC HOPEFUL, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, on wanting the Games to go ahead as scheduled in a safe way.

Any decision to continue or postpone the Olympics must be based on facts. For example, if a vaccine is developed soon, then perhaps the Olympics can still go on as scheduled.”

National paddler Feng Tianwei, the world No. 9, felt a postponement was “inevitable”.

“As long as it is not a cancellation, it is still good news to athletes,” said the 33-year-old, who is training in Japan. “From the way the IOC and the Tokyo 2020 organising committee have responded, it is only right they prioritise the well-being of athletes and everyone involved. Regardless when the Olympics is postponed to, we will have to prepare pro-actively and positively.”

However, one national athlete, who is aiming to qualify for Tokyo and spoke on condition of anonymity, said she would like the Olympics to continue in July as scheduled “in a safe way”, perhaps behind closed doors.

“Athletes have prepared long and hard for months, even years,” she said. “If the Olympics is postponed, athletes would have to reset and re-plan an entire cycle to gear towards the Games again.”

Additional reporting by Nicole Chia and Kimberly Kwek

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