Hayley Wickenheiser, arguably the greatest women’s hockey player of all-time, blasted the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for their recommendation to hold the upcoming Tokyo Games amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Wickenheiser is a member of the IOC’s Athletes’ Commission and released a statement on Twitter, presenting her perspective as a six-time Olympian and medical doctor in training.
The 41-year-old also works as the assistant director of player development for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“This crisis is bigger than even the Olympics,” Wickenheiser wrote.
“Athletes can’t train. Attendees can’t travel plan. Sponsors and marketers can’t market with any degree of sensitivity.
“I think the IOC insisting this will move ahead with such conviction, is insensitive and irresponsible given the state of humanity. We don’t know what’s happening in the next 24 hours, let alone in the next three months.”
Concerns as an athlete
Wickenheiser is widely considered the GOAT in her sport, winning four consecutive gold medals with Canada’s women’s national team, to go along with her silver medal from the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano. She also competed in softball at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney.
“From an athlete perspective, I can only imagine and try to empathize with the anxiety and heartbreak athletes are feeling right now,” Wickenheiser wrote. “The uncertainty of not knowing of where you’re going to train tomorrow, as facilities close and qualification events are cancelled all over the world, would be terrible if you’ve been training your whole life for this.”
Wickenheiser was a driving force of the women’s national team for two decades and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame during her first year of eligibility in 2019.
IOC releases statement
The IOC released a statement on Tuesday, asking athletes to prepare for the upcoming games per usual.
Below is an excerpt from the communique the IOC released:
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; and any speculation at this moment would be counter-productive.
The IOC encourages all athletes to continue to prepare for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 as best they can. We will keep supporting the athletes by consulting with them and their respective NOCs, and by providing them with the latest information and developments, which are accessible for athletes worldwide on the Athlete365 website and via their respective NOCs and IFs.
Japan’s leaders committed to staging games
Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, held a news conference in Tokyo on Saturday where he said the Games will continue to go on despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We will overcome the spread of the infection and host the Olympics without problem, as planned,” Abe said.
Abe stated that Japan is facing a relatively low infection rate compared to the rest of the world, and that the country didn’t need to declare a national emergency.
He also held a call with U.S. President Donald Trump, where the idea of postponing or cancelling the Games was not introduced during their discussion.
Kozo Tashima, one of the vice-presidents of the Japanese Olympic Committee, revealed Tuesday that he tested positive for coronavirus. Tashima is also the president of the Japanese Football Association.
In spite of Tashima’s diagnosis and concerns from athletes across the world, Wickenheiser among them, there doesn’t seem to be any plan to cancel the Tokyo Games just yet.
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