No need to rush Tokyo Olympic decision says US

Los Angeles (AFP) –


United States Olympic chiefs said Friday more time was needed to determine the fate of this year's Tokyo Olympics amid mounting calls to postpone the Games because of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a conference call with reporters, United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) chairwoman Susanne Lyons said there was no need for the International Olympic Committee to make an immediate decision on Tokyo.

"I think we would concur with the IOC to say that we need more expert advice and information than we have today to make a decision," Lyons said.

"And we don't have to make a decision. Our games are not next week, or two weeks from now. They're four months from now.

"And I think a lot may change in that time period. So we are affording the IOC the opportunity to gather that information and epxert advice.

"At this point in time, we do not feel that it's necessary for us to insist that they make a decision."

IOC President Thomas Bach told the New York Times in an interview on Thursday that "different scenarios" were under consideration but emphasized that any decision to postpone the Games would be premature.

Lyons said US officials had not had any discussion with the IOC over possible contingency plans.

"President Bach has been quite steadfast in saying he believes its premature to identiy a different path," Lyons said. "He has not articulated, and the IOC has not articulated, specific contingency plans and he has been clear in saying that they are continuing on the path to Tokyo."

- Athlete anger -

Lyons' remarks come against a backdrop of mounting unease amongst athletes and former athletes over the impact the coronavirus pandemic is having on their preparations for Tokyo.

Several have called on the IOC to postpone the July 24-August 9 Games, noting that restrictions imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19 have wreaked havoc with training and competition schedules.

Former US Olympic distance runner Kara Goucher joined the chorus of those who have called for a postponement, accusing Olympic chiefs of placing financial considerations above athlete safety.

"Athletes are humans, they get sick!" Goucher wrote on Twitter. "Postpone so they can #ShelterAtHome w/o worrying about losing fitness to competitors!

"You are losing any credibility that you care about the wellness of athletes! Athletes over money please!"

USOPC chief executive Sarah Hirshland admitted that athletes had suffered "significant" disruption to qualifying for Tokyo, and warned they would "likely continue to be significant."

Hirshland insisted, however, that athletes were not unanimously in favor of the Olympics being postponed.

"As diverse as our athletes are, so too are their perspectives, and that adds to the complication factor," Hirshland said.

"There are athletes out there for whom this feels like their only opportunity, their last chance. I don't think we're in a position where all athletes have a unanimous point of view."

Additional mental health resources were being made available to athletes as they grapple with "significant anxiety," she said.

"We are all living with a high degree of uncertainty and a lack of clarity, and we absolutely hope that we can have clarity as soon as that's practical," Hirshland said.