Nearly seven in 10 U.S. Olympic hopefuls say they don’t think the Tokyo Games will be fair if they are held in July, prompting leaders of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee to conclude “it’s more clear than ever that the path toward postponement is the most promising.”
The USOPC sent a survey over the weekend to more than 4,000 athletes for details on how the coronavirus pandemic has influenced their training and their feelings about the upcoming games; they received responses from 1,780.
Sixty-nine percent said they would feel comfortable competing in July if the World Health Organization — one of the groups consulting with the IOC — deemed it safe. But virtually that same number — 68% — said they didn’t think the Olympics would be fair under those circumstances.
The best explanation for that has been the massive disruption in training schedules, as athletes prepare for qualifying events this spring and summer.
With city and state governments closing gyms and asking people to stay in their homes, fewer than one in 10 of the athletes said they can continue to train without any impact. And 65% said that continuing to train and prepare will put their health at risk.
The USOPC has come under criticism for not advocating for a postponement, which is the position taken by its own sports organizations in swimming, track and gymnastics, along with national committees in Canada, Australia, Brazil and Germany.
Part of the hesitance, CEO Sarah Hirshland told AP on Sunday, was to get a clearer picture from athletes about their training conditions and their feelings. Armed with the data, Hirshland and board chair Susanne Lyons put out their strongest statement to date.
“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,” they said in a statement.
The calls for postponement are growing seemingly by the hour, and the chances of it happening felt virtually certain by Monday evening.
An IOC member, Craig Reedie, told the Associated Press that conditions in Japan and worldwide “clearly indicates the likelihood of postponement.” The decision will be made within four weeks, with IOC President Thomas Bach guiding the outcome.
Bach has taken the idea of a full cancellation off the board, and the American athletes agreed with that view: 93% said they preferred the option of postponing over canceling.
Champions League final postponed
UEFA formally postponed the Champions League final — an inevitable move with European soccer in total shutdown and four Round of 16 games yet to be completed.
The final was scheduled for May 30 in Istanbul before the spreading coronavirus pandemic forced the four remaining second-leg games on March 17-18 to be delayed indefinitely.
UEFA said no decision has yet been made on finding a new date.
A-League shuts down
Australian soccer’s A-League has suspended its season indefinitely, bringing an end to all professional football competitions in Australia and New Zealand until the coronavirus pandemic passes.
Football Federation Australia chief executive James Johnson announced the decision, saying the latest measures imposed by the federal government made it impossible for the A-League to continue. The league had only a few regular-season rounds remaining before the playoffs. Johnson said the postponement will be reviewed on April 22.
He remained optimistic the season could resume and said the postponement likely was “heartbreaking” for players, clubs and fans. All soccer in Australia from community to professional level has now been halted.
The multi-national Super Rugby competition suspended its season last week and attempts in Australia and New Zealand to create domestic competitions for their teams have been put on hold.
Australian rules’ Australian Football League suspended its season Sunday after only one round. The National Rugby League followed suit on Monday after two rounds.
Restart dates in Japan
On a day when Japan’s prime minister admitted postponing the Tokyo Olympics might be unavoidable, medical experts suggested it could be possible for the top-flight Japanese baseball and soccer seasons to resume by the end of next month.
Nippon Professional Baseball Organisation and the J.League received advice from medical experts during the fourth meeting of the joint panel that was formed to assess impacts of the coranavirus pandemic.
Mitsuo Kaku, a professor in infection control and prevention at Tohoku Medical and Pharmaceutical University, said the sports officials should be targeting a start date at the end of April.
Stadium to house 200 beds
Pacaembu Stadium in downtown Sao Paulo is being turned into an open-air hospital to handle cases from the coronavirus outbreak.