World Athletics president Sebastian Coe on Sunday believed that postponing this year’s Tokyo Olympics due to the COVID-19 pandemic has prevented the participating athletes from “mental turmoil”.
Supporting the move to reschedule the Summer Games, Coe said that had the Olympics gone ahead as scheduled, it would have placed the competitors in an impossible position during these hard times.
“We didn’t want to have the athletes in a position where they were countering government advice, maybe even breaking the law,” Coe was quoted as saying on PTI via AFP.
“And of course in the back of their minds was always that concern, it wasn’t just their own training programme, but that they ran the risk of effectively infecting themselves, their families, their kids, grandparents or parents, and we just wanted to take them out of that mental turmoil as quickly as we possibly could.
“We’re no different from everyone else out there but I think we just concluded that sport, on this occasion, had to take a back seat,” the WA chief added.
Coe was one of the early advocates who had voiced his concern regarding the schedule of the Games and said an Olympics when the world witnesses the deadly outbreak of the novel coronavirus was ‘neither feasible nor desirable’.
Writing a letter to International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach, Coe had called for the postponement of the Games before such a decision was made.
“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.
“I believe that time has come and we owe it to our athletes to give them respite where we can,” the letter stated.
Meanwhile, after initial reluctance, the Olympics organisers and IOC decided to reschedule the Games to 2021 on March 24 following a teleconference call between Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, IOC chief and all other stakeholders.
Japan and the IOC were adamant to keep the Tokyo Olympics on schedule. While the IOC chief had said there was no need for a drastic decision, the Japanese PM had pledged to host the Games as scheduled and refused to declare the crisis an emergency in his country.
However, with Canada and Australia withdrawing from the Games on Monday, the pressure seems to have piled up on the authorities. Both the countries stated that it won’t be sending its contingent to Tokyo 2020 Olympics unless the tournament happens next year.