End-April German Championships In Doubt As Olympic Bosses Quarrel In Public Over Fate Of Tokyo 2020

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Germany’s swimming federation, the DSV, will decide the fate of the German Swimming Championships, an Olympic qualifier event, this week after cancelling all federation aquatics events on Government advice issued late last week under coronavirus (COVID-19) containment measures.

The April German Championships are in doubt as the country ramps up its coronavirus response and the virus statistics start to gallop: an estimated 162,687 people have been infected worldwide, with just under half of them in China (81,003 cases). An estimated 6,065 people have died, 3,085 of them in China. In just one day, Sunday saw Italy’s death toll rise by 368 to 1,809, Spain recorded 97 more deaths for a total of 288, and France reported 29 deaths, giving a total of 120, while  UK also experienced its biggest one-day leap in cases, 14 new deaths taking the tota to 35 at what experts say is a moment “about four weeks behind Italy”.

Further postponements and cancellations of major Olympic qualifier events are due just as leading International Olympic Committee members embark in a public disagreement in which Australia’s John Coates, in isolation, suggests that there is “no May deadline” and that the Olympic Games will go on, his words seemingly oblivious to the crisis unfolding in the world and the plight and struggle of athletes far and wide, many unable to access training facilities.

Coates also revealed that 600 Chinese athletes are in a contained environment at the heart of the pandemic in Europe, telling the Sydney Morning Herald:

“The Chinese are in various parts of Europe and the last I heard is they’re bringing them all together in a university in Paris where they’ll be fully contained, 600 of them, and they will go straight from confinement there, straight into Japan. They won’t put anyone on a plane who has got coronavirus.

“They’re all basically in serious lockdown. There will be instances … some athletes will catch it. Let’s hope it’s not serious and you’ve got your two weeks to get through it.”

Borders Closed As the Count of a Crisis Grows

From today, Germany’s borders are closed, all schools in the country are closed, home learning plans are being rolled out and the sports landscape is a virtual desert of cancelled and postponed events, with five members of Bundesliga football teams among almost 6,000 COVID-19 infections.

On the basis of the current recommendations of the Federal Government, the DSV said that is was “cancelling all official DSV events with immediate effect. We strongly recommend local organizers of events outside the DSV’s responsibility to join this decision.” It added:

“This decision is intended to protect the health of athletes, fans and all employees as best as possible. In the meantime, we will continue to consult intensively with our partners BMI (Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community), DOSB (German Olympic Committee), FINA, LEN and other institutions and closely monitor the current development … (this week) the DSV will publish more information about its Olympic sports and national teams.”

The German Championships, scheduled for Berlin from April 30-May 3, are as yet still on, an announcement due soon from the DSV at a time when many other sports, including the big professional sports, have cancelled events until at least the end of April and, in some cases, until the end of May.

Germany does not rely entirely on its championships to select its Olympic team for Tokyo 2020, the event one where those not already qualified can add their names to the squad and those already qualified on the clock and on other criteria must race and show form, according to the selection policy of the DSV. Other designated events has also been ‘Olympic qualifier’ moments and it is likely that the DSV will look to other events over the course of the summer to make Tokyo 2020 decisions.

New Zealand Trials Also In Doubt

New Zealand Swimming may also be forced to reconfigure or postpone its Olympic Trials and nationals after an update to Government containment measures that reduces to 500 from 1,000 the number of people allowed to gather for events. More on that when the story develops.

Olympic Bosses Quarrel In Public

tokyo2020-logoThe Games, due to start July 24, also hang in the balance, among those calling for postponement until later in the year or 2021 Haruyuki Takahashi, Tokyo 2020 Executive Board member, and  Guy Learmonth, who captained the GB team at the European Indoor Athletics Championships last year and is an Olympic hopeful on the track over 800m. Learmonth tells The Guardian newspaper today:

“We have no idea how bad this is going to get, and what we have seen so far might be the tip of the iceberg. Of course the IOC and the whole world wants a successful Olympics. But for that to happen I strongly believe the event needs to be postponed – unless the authorities can guarantee it will be business as usual, which I don’t believe they can.

The Olympic flame having been handed over in Athens last week, the International Olympic Committee and many of its members are maintaining the line that the Olympics will proceed as planned, pending a recommendation of the World Health Organization in May.

The president of the DOSB, the German Olympic Committee, Alfons Hörmann, says that the IOC must make a decision no later than two months out from the start of Tokyo 2020. That’s May 24. Until then, “it will not be possible to have definitive clarity over the next few day”, Hörmann told the ARD Sports Show last night.

He was also the man who called for a complete shut down of all German sport “with immediate effect” on grounds of “responsibility and reason”.

Bizarrely, Australia’s IOC top-table John Coates, in isolation at home after returning to Australia from Europe, suggests in the Sydney Morning Herald today that there is no May deadline for the IOC and Tokyo 2020 and all is proceeding for a July 24 start. That stands in stark contrast to the views of fellow IOC member Dick Pound, who first mentioned the May deadline, and an interview on German TV in which Thomas Bach, IOC president, said that the IOC would follow the recommendation of the World Health Organisation (WHO) when making its decision to go ahead with the Games or not.

The gap between those views suggests chaos at the heart ion the IOC planning process.

In Germany, the 59-year-old Hörmann said: “We should now restrict the entire game, training and competition operations in our clubs and associations in ‘Sport Germany’ or, ideally, have a complete shut down. completely put it down.”

There is no football, competition and in many cases training, across the soccer realm in Germany until April 2, pending another decision then, a break in the season last witnessed during the Second World War.

Five positive coronavirus cases have been confirmed at the Bundesliga club SC Paderborn, while the second division teams Hannover 96, 1. FC Nürnberg and Holstein Kiel have placed their entire teams in home  quarantine for 14 days.

The DFL German soccer’s General Assembly meeting today, against a backdrop of talk in the national media that no games will unfold this season with spectators, while it may be that no games unfold at all.  The German Football Association has also scheduled a crisis meeting with the third division teams today on Monday after confirmation that the president of Hallescher FC, Jens Rauschenbach, has tested positive for COVID-19.

Elsewhere in German sport, Formula 1 is off until the end of May and the Triathlon World Federation has cancelled all events until the end of April.

Extraordinary Events In Swimming History:

Australia, Canada, China, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Italy, France, Ireland, Spain, the Netherlands, Brazil and Japan have all had major meets affected by the coronavirus pandemic, while in the United States, the NCAA Championships have been cancelled and USA Swimming has imposed a 30-day suspension on all events, while Canada is considering what to do about its Olympic trials early next month. In Italy, where swimmers are struggling to maintain normal routines, can’t get to practice and in some cases find pool time, a #stopolympics campaign was launched by the Nuoto website calling on solidarity among swimming nations to recognise that Olympic preparations have been blown off course and that it would be in the interests of fairness to postpone the Games for a time of calm beyond the coronavirus crisis. 

Our coverage:

Guidance on Water and Coronavirus 

2 comments

  1. Dan Ohm

    Postpone it already..
    Summer of 2021..who knows if Tokyo will be out of the woods, the athletes may be fine but a fair amount of coaches and officials are more vulnerable. Do you let some nations come but others with the virus is still prevalent are told do not come?
    The playing field will be less than even with a majority of athletes out of the water in what could be a peak period for them. If people think it will run its course by then they are kidding themselves.

    • avatar
      Craig Lord - Swimming World Editor-in-Chief

      Spot on, Dan.