French Health Minister: “I Don’t See France Sending Athletes To Tokyo Olympics” In July

Florent Manaudou at the European Championships in Glasgow - Photo Courtesy: Patrick B. Kraemer / MAGICPBK
Florent Manaudou of France - his new goal looks set to be Tokyo 2021 - Photo Courtesy: Patrick B. Kraemer / MAGICPBK

French Health and Solidarity Minister Olivier Véran has fired another shot among many travelling across the bows of an indecisive International Olympic Committee by stating that he does not see France sending any athletes to the Olympic Games in Tokyo this July given the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Speaking on the RTL television program Grand Jury today, Véran said that he did not want French athletes to go to Tokyo to participate in the Olympic Games, due to start July 24 and last into August before the Paralympics begins several weeks later.

He made clear that his opinion was not the binding position of France but Véran’s view from the realm of the most important ministry in the French Government of President Emmanuel Macron carries weight.

Véran spoke on a day when Tokyo 2020 arrived at a cliff-edge of decision, the IOC and Japanese organisers yet to come to a view even though cancellation or postponement look like the only options left.

In a concise statement, Véran noted:

“Do I intend to request the suspension of the Olympic Games as Minister of Health? No. Do I see myself sending athletes to Japan or asking them to prepare in the right conditions? The answer is no.”

During the week, the president of the French swimming federation (FFN), Gilles Sezionale called for a postponement of the Games until 2021, A pharmacist on the frontline of the coronavirus war, Sezionale denounced the lack of IOC & Tokyo 2020 action as “indecent and shocking”.

Sezionale was today backed by the president of the French Athletics Federation André Giraud, who appealed to the French Olympic Committee to ask the IOC to make a decision. the IOC to intervene and take a decision. The French Swimming Federation but also its American counterpart also expressed the same wish.

USA Swimming has also urged its NOC, the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee, to ask the IOC to postpone the Games until 2021, a request backed by Canada, supported by Australia and coinciding with similar calls from Norway, Serbia, Brazil and Spain.

Leading voices in Italy, the worst-hit of European nations so far in the corona crisis,  have indicated that there will be no Italian team in Tokyo if the Games go ahead as planned. The leading swim website Nuoto.com launched a campaign two weeks ago under the hashtag #stopolympics and called on the world’s swim nations to show solidarity. That has come in abundance, Australia among nations leading the way.

Against that backdrop, IOC President Thomas Bach was still calling the option of postponing the Tokyo Games “premature” on Friday.

Tuesday will now arrive with not a single member of the IOC left in any doubt that cancellation or postponement are the only doors left open.

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