The United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee is joining the chorus of voices calling for the postponement of the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, something reported to already be in the works as the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage across the globe.
USOPC chair Susanne Lyons and CEO Sarah Hirshland released a statement on Monday saying that after surveying many of their athletes, they are recommending the International Olympic Committee postpone the Tokyo Games.
“We are thankful to the 1,780 Team USA athletes for sharing their voice and honest input with us as we address the issues related to COVID-19 and the Tokyo Games, and make good on our promise to put athletes first. We are now confident that we have heard a wide range of viewpoints and understand the diversity of challenges our athletes face. We regret that there is no outcome that can solve all the concerns we face.
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.
To that end, 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. We look forward to their feedback and direction, and stand ready to work in support of Team USA and in full cooperation with the global community.”
The statement is somewhat of an about-face for Hirshland, who said Sunday that it wasn’t her place to demand the IOC postpone the Olympics, but rather to offer solutions. As it turns out, the only solution remaining is postponement.
Olympics trending toward postponement due to coronavirus
The USOPC’s recommendation figures to carry plenty of weight for the IOC, but the decision on postponement might already be made.
Longtime IOC member Dick Pound said Monday that postponement has been decided. That came just a day after IOC president Thomas Bach and Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe both acknowledged the real possibility of postponement for the first time. Bach said a decision would have to be made within four weeks.
Meanwhile, the Canadian Olympic team has already announced it will not send any athletes to Tokyo in 2020, calling for the games to be postponed. The Australian team also said it was preparing for a 2021 Olympics.
Coronavirus: 92 percent of U.S. athletes said their quality of training had been impacted
Included with the USOPC’s statement were the results of the survey of 1,780 U.S. athletes, and they paint a dire picture for the country’s ability to field an Olympic team up to its usual standards.
A whopping 92 percent of athletes said that the quality of their training had been effected by the coronavirus outbreak, with 63 percent saying the impact was severe or had made them unable to train.
Such a situation is hardly surprising when even elite athletes like Katie Ledecky are having trouble finding places to train that haven’t been closed to the public.
Only 35 percent of athletes said they believed they weren’t putting their own health at risk by continuing to train, and 68 percent said they did not believe the Games could be played on a fair playing field if held as scheduled.
USA Track & Field, Swimming and Gymnastics all called for coronavirus postponement
The USOPC’s statement was released shortly after USA Gymnastics joined USA Track & Field and USA Swimming in calling on the organization to demand the Olympics be postponed.
Those three federations accounted for 33 of the US's 46 gold medals at the 2016 Olympics in Rio De Janeiro, and 77 of the 121 total medals. With that group and others calling for postponement, it’s hard to believe the U.S. could stay in favor of the Olympics as scheduled.
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