Postponing 2020 Olympic Games is a ‘realistic option,’ organizers say as pressure builds from athletic groups
Committee President Yoshiro Mori conceded that although the preference is to host the spectacle as normal in July, organizers would work alongside the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to explore alternatives amid the novel coronavirus outbreak.
“Postponement isn’t our first course of action but we cannot not consider it as a realistic option either,” Mori said in a news conference Monday, ruling out the idea of canceling the event entirely.
It comes after the IOC executive board said Sunday it is considering postponing this summer’s Games and has given itself a four-week deadline to make a decision.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also said a decision to postpone may be needed if the Games cannot be held in a complete form.
Countries pull out
Pressure has been building on organizers to delay this year’s Olympics with the world closing down because of the continued spread of Covid-19.
Training facilities and gyms are shutting in many countries and major qualifying events have already been canceled.
Canada and Australia have said they would not send athletes to Tokyo this year because of the risks associated with the virus and requested the competition be moved back until 2021.
World Athletics President Sebastian Coe also urged the IOC to postpone the Games, saying hosting the competition in July was “neither feasible or desirable”.
In a letter penned to IOC President Thomas Bach on Sunday, Coe gave three main reasons why delaying the start of the Games was necessary.
Firstly, Coe raised concerns that athletes in certain countries would not be able to train as much as others, creating an unfair playing field. He also stated that certain athletes would try to cram training into a shorter amount of time, which could lead to injury.
Finally, Coe said uncertainly over the July Games was risking the physical and mental well-being of athletes and their families.
“No one wants to see the Olympic Games postponed but as I have said publicly, we cannot hold the event at all costs, certainly not at the cost of athlete safety, and a decision on the Olympic Games must become very obvious very quickly,” he wrote.
Multiple athletes have raised their own concerns. Japanese footballer Nahomi Kawasumi said Monday that she was withdrawing from the torch relay.
Kawasumi, who helped her country lift the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2011, plays for Sky Blue FC in New Jersey, near New York City, which has seen a recent surge in confirmed cases.
She said she was concerned about the risk of being infected or infecting others if she traveled back from the US.
USA Swimming and USA Track and Field also both called for the Olympics to be pushed back until 2021 over the weekend.