Britain expected to call for Olympics to be postponed as pressure grows on IOC

By PA Sport Staff
PA Media: Sport

The British Olympic Association (BOA) is expected to add its voice to the growing calls for this summer’s Tokyo Games to be postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The BOA, the British Paralympic Association and funding body UK Sport will hold a conference call today with bosses from the summer Olympic and Paralympic sports and it is anticipated they will make a collective call for the Games to be rescheduled and advise athletes to prepare on that basis.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Dick Pound says the organisation has already decided to postpone the showpiece event.

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The IOC has given itself four weeks to determine its future, with the Games due to get under way on July 24.

“On the basis of the information the IOC has, postponement has been decided,” Pound told USA Today.

“The parameters going forward have not been determined, but the Games are not going to start on July 24, that much I know.”

Great Britain are unlikely to be able to send a team to Tokyo in any case, the chair of the BOA warned.

Hugh Robertson welcomed the IOC’s announcement that it is examining contingency scenarios, including postponement.

Sir Hugh Robertson says it is unlikely Great Britain would send a team to Tokyo were the Olympics to take place as planned (Steven Paston/PA)
Sir Hugh Robertson says it is unlikely Great Britain would send a team to Tokyo were the Olympics to take place as planned (Steven Paston/PA)

However, he said that, due to the widespread closure of training facilities and the likelihood that the impact of coronavirus in Britain will worsen over the coming weeks, there was almost certainly no way Team GB could compete.

“I think it is very simple. If the virus continues as predicted by the Government, I don’t think there is any way we can send a team,” he told Sky Sports News.

“And I base that on two things. Firstly, I don’t see any way that the athletes and Team GB could be ready by then.

“Elite training facilities are perfectly understandably and quite correctly closed around the country, so there is no way they could undertake the preparation they need to get ready for a Games.

“Second, there is the appropriateness of holding an Olympic Games at a time like this.”

He added: “We can’t see any way that this can go ahead as things are constituted at the moment and I expect we will be joining Canada and Australia shortly.”

The Canadian Olympic and Paralympic committees have announced they will not compete in Tokyo this summer, while the Australians have told their athletes to prepare for a postponement to the summer of 2021.

Team USA said it had surveyed its athletes with nearly 93 per cent of the 1,780 respondents preferring to see the Games postponed rather than outright cancellation, while 68 per cent said the Games could not be fairly competed if continued as scheduled.

Boris Johnson’s official spokesperson has urged the IOC to make a “definitive decision”.

The Prime Minister’s spokesperson said: “Athletes are facing significant uncertainty in the current environment. Their health and safety, alongside that of sports fans and officials due to work at the Games, must be absolutely paramount.

“We want the International Olympic Committee to make a definitive decision soon to bring clarity to all of those involved.”

Meanwhile, a leading figure on the BOA’s athletes’ commission has described IOC president Thomas Bach as arrogant and stubborn over the organisation’s approach to the pandemic.

Callum Skinner, a 2016 Olympic cycling champion, was scathing about Bach in a social media post.

“IOC president Thomas Bach’s stubbornness and arrogance has spectacularly failed in this instance and he has weakened the Olympic movement,” Skinner wrote on Twitter.

“This isn’t the first time he has put his own motives above the athletes and the movement.”

Elsewhere, Formula One boss Chase Carey is planning a revised season of 15 to 18 races when the sport resumes. The Azerbaijan Grand Prix, which had been due to take place on June 7, was postponed on Monday, the eighth race to be affected so far.

And UEFA has officially postponed the men’s and women’s Champions League finals and the Europa League final, which were all due to take place in May. No decision has been made on rearranged dates.

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