BOA Will Not ‘Endanger Health & Wellbeing Of Athletes’ For Sake Of July Olympics

TeamGB
Team GB - Photo Courtesy: British Olympic Committee

The British Olympic Association (BOA)  will not “endanger the health and wellbeing of the athletes” as they prepare for Tokyo 2020 in the wake of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

There has been mounting criticism of the International Olympic Committee’s assurance the Games will take place as scheduled from 24 July with athletes questioning how they are expected to train given facilities across the world are in lockdown.

There are growing calls to postpone or even cancel the Games with the IOC accused of putting athletes’ health at risk.

In a letter to National Olympic Committees sent out after a teleconference call with the IOC on Wednesday, president Thomas Bach gave the first official hint that Olympic bosses were beginning to shift into “adaptation” mode, away from the standard message of “business as usual, we plan for a July 24 start”. In the letter, Bach writes:

“This is why our position of solidarity is important in providing some clarity. We can now move forward with the necessary adaptations to the Tokyo 2020 qualification processes and to the organisation of the Olympic Games. With regard to both issues, we will continue to be guided by the recommendations of the task force.”

There are growing calls to postpone or even cancel the Games with the IOC accused of putting athletes’ health at risk, while today brought confirmation that the 2020 European Championships in Budapest have been postponed to a tentative date of of 17-30 August, the cancellation of the original May dates confirming what sources told Swimming World yesterday.

Double Olympic silver medallist James Guy insisted on Thursday that he was “100% ready to go” whenever the Olympics are held but the prospect of them taking place in July is increasingly untenable.

Athletes and coaches have responded well to the decision to cancel the May dates, Fred Vergnoux, mentor to Olympic 200m butterfly champion Mireia Belmonte and others in Spain, taking to Twitter to quote the 17th-century poet Anne Bradstreet:

“If there were no winter, spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not taste adversity, success would not be so much appreciated.”

BOA Makes Position Clear To The IOC

The BOA participated in Wednesday’s conference call with IOC president Thomas Bach and 220 athlete representatives from around the world.

Bach said the talks were “constructive” while remaining committed to Tokyo 2020 as “we still have more than four months to go”.

The BOA said on Friday they were “working with our international Olympic colleagues to ensure we find the most appropriate outcome for the Games, scheduled for four months’ time, in light of the growing seriousness of COVID-19.”

They are in regular contact with the IOC over the “significant challenges developing in training and qualification programmes that will have a major impact between now and the Games.”

The BOA went on to insist:

“However, we can be categorically clear that we will not endanger the health and wellbeing of the athletes or wider delegation at any point.”

The BOA statement in full:

“Everyone at the British Olympic Association (BOA) recognises the unprecedented times we are currently facing. Our primary concern is for those in our society dealing with the impact of COVID-19, specifically anyone affected directly by the virus, and the countless individuals and organisations that are working tirelessly to protect our communities.

“This is a fast moving and developing international crisis with very serious consequences, and we appreciate that sport is of a secondary importance when it comes to the health and wellbeing of the population. Following conference calls that have taken place between the International Olympic Committee (IOC), International Federations, National Olympic Committees and athletes’ representatives this week, we are determined to work with our international Olympic colleagues to ensure we find the most appropriate outcome for the Games, scheduled for four months’ time, in light of the growing seriousness of COVID-19.

“For many athletes, in common with their contemporaries across the world, preparation and/or qualification journeys are now being affected. Whilst we acknowledge the IOC are doing their best to ensure that the qualification process remains fair for all athletes across all sports, we are in regular dialogue with them on this matter, as it is clear there are significant challenges developing in training and qualification programmes that will have a major impact between now and the Games.

“It is imperative to preserve competitive integrity for athletes, but it is clearly only wise for athletes to continue to prepare for the Games where it is safe and appropriate to do so, within relevant Government and public health guidelines.

“As of the date of this statement (19.03.20), the IOC and the local Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (TOCOG), have confirmed there is no change to the status of the Games happening between 24 July – 9 August 2020. The BOA will support the ongoing decision-making process and input wherever necessary.

“However, we can be categorically clear that we will not endanger the health and wellbeing of the athletes or wider delegation at any point.

“We will remain in regular contact with TOCOG, the IOC and British Embassy in Tokyo, as well as our National Governing Bodies, agencies and athletes’ commission and will continue to follow Government, World Health Organisation and Public Health England guidelines in monitoring any ongoing change of advice over the course of the next four months.”

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2 comments

  1. Peter Hocking

    It’s a postponement… just get on with it as the longer you leave it the more difficult it becomes (and yes I realise it’s very very tricky)

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