British Swimming & British Olympic Association: Postponement Is The Right Decision

Photo Courtesy: British Swimming

British Swimming moved quickly to respond to the announcement by the International Olympic Committee that the Olympic Games have been postponed for a year by describing it as “undoubtedly the right decision”.

A joint statement from the IOC and Tokyo 2020 organising committee came four months to the day that Tokyo 2020 was due to begin with the Games now subject to a one-year delay as a result of the devastation the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is wreaking across the world.

The Paralympic Games will also take place in 2021.


British Swimming were soon joined by the British Olympic Association, the British Paralympic Association and UK Sport in responding to the news.

British Swimming CEO Jack Buckner said:

“Given the current circumstances this is undoubtedly the right decision. The global COVID-19 pandemic is affecting people worldwide; getting it under control and protecting the health of the global population should clearly be the number one priority at this moment in time.

“The Olympic and Paralympic Games are an inspirational spectacle that take place every four years, but the health of athletes, coaches, officials, volunteers and spectators supersedes sporting endeavour. Our athletes and coaches are currently following the advice of the UK Government, by practicing social-distancing measures and are therefore not in the water.

“Were they attempting to train for the biggest sporting event of the quadrennial they would be putting the health of themselves and those around them at risk, which I’m sure everyone would agree would be both dangerous and extremely selfish.

“The need for pools clearly means our sports are some of the worst affected by the latest government enforcements, and without the vital preparation the Tokyo 2020 Games would not be the pinnacle of sporting achievement that we expect from an Olympic and Paralympic Games.

“At a time like this I urge both the aquatics and sporting world to pull together and support their government’s advice, which will push back against the pandemic, save lives and allow sport to continue to engage and inspire people in the not too distant future.”


Great Britain coaches Photo Courtesy: British Swimming

National performance director Chris Spice echoed Buckner’s words and emphasised the effect this will have on athletes who were coming to the end of their careers.

Aimee Willmott, the Commonwealth 400IM champion, had long said this would be her final Games, and she made an emotional post on social media.

Spice said:

“Postponement of the Olympic Games was inevitable given the pandemic that is sweeping the world at the moment and it is undoubtedly the right decision.

“That being said there was never going to be a perfect solution and the timing of the postponement, pushing the Games back by 12 months, won’t suit everyone.

“For some athletes 2020 will have been earmarked as their final year of competition and they will have put all of their efforts into this year. We’ll now be working with our athletes, both physically and mentally, to support them during what is to be an uncertain few weeks and months.”

British Para-Swimming performance director Chris Furber welcomed the clarity the announcement has given to the para-athletes, many of whom will now be going into self-isolation for 12 weeks.

He said:

“I speak on behalf of everyone at British Para-Swimming when I say this is the right decision. All of our para-swimmers are no longer able to train in the water and delaying the decision would only have put the health of athletes across the globe at risk.

“Due to the health conditions of athletes in para-sport, there will be many who may have to go into self-isolation for the next 12 weeks, which clearly doesn’t support preparation for the biggest sporting event in the world.

“I’m also pleased that the uncertainty has been removed and people involved with high performance sport worldwide can begin to prepare for a Games in 18 months’ time.”

The British Olympic Association (BOA) released a joint statement with UK Sport and the British Paralympic Association.


Team GB – Photo Courtesy: British Olympic Committee

BOA chief executive Andy Anson described as “unthinkable” the prospect of having continued to prepare for a Games this July.

He said:

“It is with profound sadness that we accept the postponement, but in all consciousness it is the only decision we can support, in light of the devastating impact COVID-19 is having on our nation, our communities and our families.

“Alongside UK Sport and the BPA, we have consulted with the National Governing Bodies of summer Olympic and Paralympic sports and with athlete representative groups, including our Athletes’ Commissions and the British Athletes’ Commission. It is with their input and support that we have a unanimous view that the impact of COVID-19 on athletes’ training and preparation means their regimes are now compromised irreparably. It is time for them to stop thinking about Tokyo 2020 for now and be home and safe with their families.

“It would have been unthinkable for us to continue to prepare for an Olympic Games at a time the nation and the world no less is enduring great hardship. A postponement is the right decision.

“We have incredible sympathy for the Tokyo 2020 organising committee and indeed our colleagues at the IOC, who are working tirelessly to seek a positive outcome to this difficult scenario. The Olympic Games is a symbol of hope for us all and we are sure that we will be in Tokyo at the right and appropriate time as the world re-emerges from this dark period.”

Sally Munday, CEO of UK Sport, welcomed the decision and addressed financial concerns and worries over funding awards, saying:

“Given the unprecedented global challenge we face, today’s news means that athletes, their coaches and support staff can now fully focus on what really matters at this terribly difficult time, keeping themselves and their families safe.

“We are working closely with government to ensure we can effectively support sports and their athletes through this distressing period. I’d like to take the opportunity to reassure sports that our guidance from last week remains in place that we will not seek to recover any financial performance investment or Athlete Performance Awards due to disruption caused by COVID-19. We also realise that today’s decision has significant financial implications for our high-performance system and we are working hard to identify the wide ranging impacts and scenarios and are in close contact with government to establish how best to support our summer Olympic and Paralympic sports and athletes to be ready for the Games when they do take place.

“I’d like to thank all our athletes who are playing a role in so many different ways in these challenging times, from supporting their local communities to inspiring us to stay active in our own homes. I’d also like to reassure the public that whilst the Games are postponed, we strongly believe the power of sport will inspire the nation again.”

The decision to postpone the Games was universally supported with Mike Sharrock, CEO of the British Paralympic Association, said the organisation was already planning for Tokyo 2021.

She said:

“Stemming this global public health crisis and doing everything possible to safeguard the health and wellbeing of people should clearly take priority in these unprecedented times.

“We welcome the clarity this now gives Paralympic athletes throughout the world who have had their training and qualification plans severely disrupted but also recognise it will still be a deeply unsettling time for athletes who have worked for years focused on delivering their best possible performance in Tokyo this summer.

“The British Paralympic Association is already implementing contingency plans to ensure ParalympicGB athletes have everything in place to be best prepared for the Games when they are staged in 2021.

“We recognise that there are a huge range of factors to be considered when looking to postpone an event at this scale and we acknowledge the scale of the challenge for our friends at the Tokyo organising committee, the IOC and IPC in addressing these.

“Now is the time for us all to work together to overcome this global threat. Sport has a unique power to inspire and bring people together and we are certain that the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games can be that beacon of hope for the whole world to focus on to show what the human spirit can achieve.

“We wish to state that this decision – to postpone the Games – should in no way be a reflection on the excellent organisation of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games by the IOC, the Tokyo Organising Committee and the Government of Japan.

“Our thoughts remain with the families and individuals affected by COVID-19, as well as the front-line workers – including many health care professionals from the UK sports’ network – who are working to keep our communities safe and well.

“We also sympathise with the many hundreds of athletes, both in the UK and globally, whose careers and personal ambitions are being impacted after many years of hard work and training.

“We remain committed to taking our Olympic and Paralympic athletes to Tokyo for the next edition of the summer Games, at the appropriate time, in the hope that it will be a celebration of the world re-emerging from this unprecedented time.”