NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) – Olympic teams from various European countries are pushing the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to make a decision on the fate of the Tokyo Games within a matter of weeks.
National teams from France, Germany and the UK say they are struggling to ensure their athletes can safely train and qualify due to the proliferation of national coronavirus lockdowns.
“Most of the athletes are desperately searching for training facilities but everything has been closed down,” Michael Schirp, the spokesman for the German Olympic Sports Federation, said in a phone interview.
“Within several weeks there has to be a decision. It cannot go on for months.”
The IOC remains adamant that it is still too early to postpone the Games, which are scheduled to commence on July 24. IOC president Thomas Bach told the New York Times on Thursday (March 19) that the organisation is mulling different scenarios but does not plan to cancel.
Governments are struggling to contain the spread of the virus in Europe, which the World Health Organisation recently declared to be the epicentre of the Covid-19 pandemic. Europe now has more cases than China and globally the number confirmed have doubled to more than 200,000 over the past 12 days, WHO said.
“We are all moving forward with the uncertainty of how the situation will evolve in the coming days,” the French National Olympic and Sports Committee said in a statement.
This week French President Emmanuel Macron ordered all citizens to remain confined to their homes, except for essential trips. Though people are permitted to leave their homes to exercise, the Ministry of Sports said on Thursday that people should not run more than 2km.
Such constraints make it challenging for French athletes to adequately prepare for the Olympics, the committee said. “We ask that the preparation needs of athletes be taken into account regardless of the decision whether or not to maintain the Games,” according to the statement.
The British Olympic Association said the disease is creating “significant challenges” for training and qualification programmes and “will have a major impact” on the Olympics.
“Sport is of a secondary importance when it comes to the health and well-being of the population,” the British Olympic Association said in a statement. “We are determined to work with our international Olympic colleagues to ensure we find the most appropriate outcome for the Games.”
“We can be categorically clear that we will not endanger the health and wellbeing of the athletes or wider delegation at any point,” the group said.
The UK, which has reported nearly 4,000 cases and 177 deaths, has not yet imposed the kind of lockdowns seen in Italy, France and Spain.
Italy, meanwhile, is committed to participating in the Tokyo Olympics and not considering withdrawing, a spokesman for the Italian National Olympic Committee said in a phone interview.
The nation has the highest number of Covid-19-related deaths in the world, surpassing those in China. Measures to contain the disease mean athletes have been unable to train or compete in various qualifying events. This month the boxing, triathlon and volleyball teams returned to Italy after their international tournaments and training camps were postponed.
A spokesman for the IOC told Bloomberg News on Thursday the organisation’s position has not changed since Tuesday, when it said there was “no need for any drastic decisions” regarding the postponement or cancellation of the Games.
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