US opening Olympic training centers after shutdown


Los Angeles (AFP)

The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee will reopen two of its elite training centers this month as the organization emerges from the coronavirus shutdown, officials said on Thursday.

USOPC chief executive Sarah Hirshland said the centers at Colorado Springs and Lake Placid would welcome small groups of athletes from June 26.

"We will start small, we will start slowly, and we will scale up as we feel confident in our systems and in our safety protocols in those two locations," Hirshland told reporters.

Hirshland warned, meanwhile, that the USOPC had already drawn up a contingency plan should next year's Tokyo Olympics, which were postponed from 2020, not take place.

"It will require additional and significant financial cuts to the organization," Hirshland warned.

"We are preparing for that scenario and putting ourselves in a position to be able to weather that incredibly unfortunate storm if it were to happen."

The USOPC has already been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, laying off 51 staff and furloughing 33 employees in a bid to slash overheads by 12.5%.

On the issue of athlete protests, meanwhile, Hirshland said the USOPC was still in the process of formulating a policy in consultation with athletes.

The USOPC faced criticism after reprimanding hammer thrower Gwen Berry and fencer Race Imboden at last year's Pan-American Games in Lima.

"We are 100 percent clear on our commitment to racial equality, equality overall and broad-based inclusion," Hirshland said.

"Anything that is proving to be a barrier to that is something we need to look at and we need to make sure we are removing barriers.

"We are going to hear all the voices and collectively with our athlete community we'll generate a perspective and answer that question."

Hirshland however declined to say whether the USOPC would support IOC sanctions against US athletes who protested in Tokyo next year.

"I'm simply not going to speculate on what we would do in certain scenario and circumstances," Hirshland said.

"We've been clear on our position, we're committed to our athletes, to evaluate and discuss our perspective on the issue.

"We're intending to do that globally and in partnership with the IOC but I'm not going to speculate on what that outcome might be."