Games Over For Tokyo 2020: Australian Travel Ban ‘May Last 6 Months’; 70% Back Tokyo 2021 In USA Poll

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Greatness Begins Somewhere But won't end in 2020 - Swimming Australia rallies the home shoal - Photo Courtesy: Swimming Australia

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison ruled out any exceptions for Olympic athletes today as he put in place a nationwide travel ban that keep Australian citizens in and all others out for what could be “restrictions to last six months” in an effort to combat the coronavirus (COVID-10) pandemic.

Addressing the nation with words that effectively make the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games a non-starter, he said: “This is not a quick fix…this is not something that we will address in two weeks, or a month…and for things to go back to normal…we have to be prepared for these restrictions to last for six months… This is a critical time…an absolutely critical time for our country…”

A poll of Olympic sentiment in Australia – the land of defending Olympic champions Mack Horton, Kyle Chalmers and the women’s 4x100m freestyle quartet of Emma McKeon, Brittany Elmslie, Bronte Campbell, Cate Campbell and Madison Wilson, and World Champion Ariarne Titmus – came out with 82% in favour of “Total Lockdown”. And that’s what’s on the cards.

In relation to swimming, the implication of PM Morrison’s words mean the automatic cancellation of the competitive calendar, with these key moments affected:

  • The Sydney Open Swim Meet in May
  • The Olympic Trials in June
  •  The Oceania Championships in Suva in June and;
  •  The Olympics in July-August would be out of bounds for Australians

The International Olympic Committee Executive Board is scheduled to meet on Tuesday. It is expected that discussions with Tokyo 2020 organisers will take place before that so that a decision on the fate of the Olympic Games can be announced soon after the meeting on Tuesday.

The meeting followed USA Swimming’s call for USOPC to call for postponement of the Games until 2021, a request that was mirrored by one from USA Track & Field.

“Tokyo Is Working On Plan B, C, D…”

Tokyo 2020 organizers have understood the ay the wind is blowing and have started drafting possible alternatives to holding the Olympics from July 24.

A source told Reuters, the news agency:

“Finally, we have been asked to make a simulation in case of a postponement. We are making alternative plans – plan B, C, D – looking at different postponement time-frames.”

All indications point to either cancellation or postponement, with a majority of leading NOCs and related domestic sports federations – in the face of silence, so far, from the likes of FINA and other international federations – requesting postponement until 2021 at the earliest.

In a clear message to all Australians that “we have to live differently in dramatic and drastic times…”, Morrison noted that restrictions include:

  • Keeping a 4-square metre distancing rule
  • Gyms, Indoor Sporting Facilities, Cinemas, Casinos to close Monday
  • All licensed pubs and clubs to close midday Monday
  • Schools to remain open until the end of the School Term (over next 2 weeks)

The development unfolds on a day when swim legend Michael Gross heaped pressure on fellow German IOC boss Thomas Bach by telling him to postpone the Games until 2021 at the earliest.

Gross’ call comes as the pressure mounts on many fronts for Bach and the IOC to postpone. On Friday, the world swimming community presented a united front for Tokyo 2020 to become Tokyo 2021,  while Bach and the IOC indicated that it had set itself a mid-April deadline for a decision on Tokyo 2020.

tokyo2020-logoItaly, one of the nations worst hit, with a daily death tool of 500-plus unfolding daily, has indicated that it will not attend the Olympic Games, while Norway, Brazil and Spain, joined the list of nations that have told the IOC that the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games needs to be postponed until 2021 at the earliest.

The Brazil Olympic Committee cited  “the notorious worsening of the COVID-19 pandemic” and “the consequent difficulty for athletes to maintain their best competitive level,” as it called on Bach and the Olympic leadership to act now and postpone the Games, the official period for which begins in less than 15 weeks.

The Tokyo Olympics are scheduled from July 24 to Aug. 9, followed by the Paralympics from Aug. 25 to Sept. 6. Both events would have to be postponed, the IOC is being told.

In response to Norway’s request to postpone, Toshiaki Endo, a vice president of the Tokyo Games organizing committee, told Japanese media:

“The organizing committee is not at the point where we need a decision on whether to cancel or postpone the games. The IOC will make the final decision. We will prepare thoroughly for the games’ opening in July.”

Meanwhile, ticket refunds are considered unlikely, according to Japanese newspaper The Asahi Shimbun. The event can invoke its “public health emergency” clause, which doesn’t leave them liable on the 5 million tickets sold for the Olympics or the 1.7 million for the Paralympics. The two events have sold an estimated $83 million in tickets.

A section of the terms and conditions for the games reads:

“Tokyo 2020 shall not be liable for any failure to perform any obligation under the Terms and Conditions to the extent that the failure is caused by a Force Majeure.”

Plan B, C, D

According to Reuters, alternatives to Plan A include scaling back the Games or holding them without spectators. Discussions on the alternatives will take place in the coming week. Postponement to 2021 and even 2022 were options  on the table.

Some organizing staff were holding out hope for a delay of a month or 45 days, said the official involved in drafting the scenarios, according to Reuters.

While Japanese sponsors are said to be nervous, as markets tumble the world over, Japan Airlines Co believes that there is “an 80% chance the Olympics would not be held as scheduled”, according a Reuters source included in a recent internal conference call.

Extraordinary Events In Swimming History:

Australia, Britain, Canada, China, Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Italy, France, Ireland, Spain, South Africa, the Netherlands, Brazil, Japan and the United States have all had major meets affected by the coronavirus pandemic. USA Swimming imposed a 30-day suspension on all events and then extended the lockdown period. In Italy, where swimmers have struggled – or found it impossible – to maintain normal routines, can’t get to practice and, in some cases, been unable to find pool time at all, 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.

There is now a strong wave of support for a postponement of the Olympic Games until 2021. 

Our coverage:

Guidance on Water and Coronavirus 

 

15 comments

    • Kelley Harman OShea

      Kimberly Joy i agree. Why? Olympics should be postponed. Total unlevel playing field for the athletes that can not train right now.

    • Taff Jones

      its not right that this virus is sweeping the world …. but totally the correct decision to protect lives

  1. Bridget Lin

    Joshua Teo absolutely devastating 😥

  2. avatar
    Troyy

    Did Scott Morrison explicitly rule out athletes travelling to the Olympics or is it just inferred from the restrictions?

    The postponement of the Olympics has been inevitable for weeks now anyway.

  3. Taff Jones

    the first of many disappointing and difficult decisions. but is is the right one.