The International Olympic Committee has come under fire from athletes for insisting that the 2020 Summer Olympics be held even as the novel coronavirus called COVID-19 is spreading across the world.
In a statement released on Tuesday after a teleconference with representatives of 33 International Sports Foundations (IF) and the IOC Executive Board about the virus, the IOC said, “The IOC remains fully committed to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, and with more than four months to go before the Games there is no need for any drastic decisions at this stage.” It went on to say that it would continue to work closely with IFs on the qualification process as only 57 percent of the Olympic spots have been secured by athletes. The IOC’s stance is that the Games can be prepared as planned as long as the qualification process is complete by the end of June.
The IOC’s decision, however, has been met with criticism from athletes and coaches. “Athletes can’t train. Attendees can’t travel plan,” said Hayley Wickenheiser, a Canadian hockey player and a member of the IOC’s athletes commission on her Twitter account. “I think the IOC insisting this will move ahead, with such conviction, is insensitive and irresponsible.”
“The IOC is putting us at risk,” Katerina Stefanidi, a Greek pole vaulter who won the gold medal at the 2016 Olympic Games, told Reuters. “We all want Tokyo to happen but what is the Plan B if it does not happen? We have to decide whether to risk our health and continue training in the current environment.”
“Japan and the IOC are not considering athletes’ health and training plans in their decision making,” said South Korean sports shooter Jin Jong-oh, who aims to become a five-time Olympian this year. Uncertainty over test events and delays in competitions in South Korea are also hampering the preparations for the Games. “You need to take a step-by-step approach to show your best ability at the Olympic Games,” Jin said. “I am not sure if athletes will still be able to do it If their qualification is determined at the last minute and everything has to be rushed.”
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