Olympics

U.S. officials see 'clear path' to Tokyo 2020 postponement

AP, AFP-JIJI

Leaders of the U.S. Olympic team said “it’s more clear than ever that the path toward postponement” of the Tokyo Games “is most promising” — a conclusion drawn from a survey in which nearly seven in 10 American Olympic hopefuls say they don’t think the games will be fair if held in July.

The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee sent a survey over the weekend to more than 4,000 athletes for details on how the coronavirus pandemic has influenced their training and their feelings about the upcoming games; they received responses from 1,780.

Sixty-nine percent said they would feel comfortable competing in July if the World Health Organization — one of the groups consulting with the IOC — deemed it safe. But virtually that same number — 68 percent — said they didn’t think the Olympics would be fair under those circumstances.

The best explanation for that has been the massive disruption in training schedules, as athletes prepare for qualifying events this spring and summer. Other concerns were over unfair qualifying standards and the undermining of worldwide drug-testing protocols.

With city and state governments closing gyms and asking people to stay in their homes, fewer than one in 10 of the athletes said they can continue to train without any impact. And 65 percent said that continuing to train and prepare will put their health at risk.

The USOPC has come under criticism for not advocating for a postponement, which is the position taken by its own sports organizations in swimming, track and gymnastics, along with national committees in Canada, Australia, Brazil and Germany.

Part of the hesitance, CEO Sarah Hirshland told The Associated Press on Sunday, was to get a clearer picture from athletes about their training conditions and their feelings. Armed with the data, Hirshland and board chair Susanne Lyons put out their strongest statement to date.

“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,” the USOPC said.

“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.”

The USOPC said it looks forward to feedback and direction from the IOC “and stand(s) ready to work in support of Team USA and in full cooperation with the global community.”

More than 900 athletes shared additional thoughts, with some backing a quick decision on the fate of the games, and some indicating they thought it was too soon to make a decision.

Concerns raised by athletes included maintaining mental health, worries about being able to continue to compete if the Games are postponed and opinions on how long a postponement is feasible.

“We are now confident that we have heard a wide range of viewpoints and understand the diversity of challenges our athletes face,” the USOPC said. “We regret that there is no outcome that can solve all the concerns we face.”

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