“It’s Clear The Olympic Games Can’t Be Held In July,” says Australian Olympic Team Boss

Ian Chesterman and Matt Carroll
GAMES OFF: Australian Olympic Games chiefs Matt Carroll (L) and Ian Chesterman have told their Australian athletes to prepare for a Tokyo Games in 2021. Photo Courtesy Getty Images (AOC)

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“It’s clear the Games can’t be held in July,” Australian Olympic Team Chef de Mission Ian Chesterman admitted today as reality struck that Toyko 2020 will now be postponed.

The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) has told its athletes they should prepare for a Tokyo Olympic Games in the northern summer of 2021, following the IOC’s announcement of a potential postponement of this year’s Games and changes in public health landscape in Australia and across the globe.

The AOC believes their athletes now need to prioritise their own health and of those around them, and to be able to return to the families, in discussion with their National Federations.

The AOC held an Executive Board meeting via teleconference this morning and unanimously agreed that an Australian Team could not be assembled in the changing circumstances at home and abroad.

AOC Chief Executive Matt Carroll said athletes have needed certainty – they wanted to do the right thing for themselves, their families and the world community.

Carroll said: “We have athletes based overseas, training at central locations around Australia as teams and managing their own programs. With travel and other restrictions this becomes an untenable situation.

“The IOC had adopted the key principles of putting athlete health first and ensuring it acted in their best interests and the interests of sport. This decision reflects those principles.

“We are now in a position where we can plan with greater certainty.

“I would like to thank AOC Athletes’ Commission Chair Steve Hooker for his valuable contribution to discussions today and over the last week, representing the views of our athletes.”

Chesterman said he had communicated to athletes after receiving feedback from more than 25 sports last week.

“It’s clear the Games can’t be held in July. Our athletes have been magnificent in their positive attitude to training and preparing, but the stress and uncertainty has been extremely challenging for them,” Chesterman said.

“They have also shouldered the burden of concern for their peers around the world. That has been a consistent message to me.”

“While there will still be much to work out as a result of this change, the timing will allow athletes from around the world to properly prepare with the hope the coronavirus crisis will be under control.

“We are aware that for many such a postponement will present a range of new issues. But when the world does come together at the Tokyo Olympic Games they can be a true celebration of sport and humanity.”

Mr Chesterman said there were numerous issues that flow from any postponement, from qualification through to logistics on the ground in Tokyo, but that these can be worked through in a timely way.

Mr Carroll, who will front the media Monday afternoon AEDST, says he will be communicating with National Federations around Australia today to work through the issues now the situation has become clearer.

Swimming Australia will also make an announcement this afternoon

Today’s turn around from their stance last week, followed the IOC executive meeting over the weekend and President Thomas Bach’s open letter to the athletes of the world included reference to any postponement with assessment of…“the international sports calendar for at least 33 Olympic sports would have to be adapted. These are just a few of many, many more challenges…..further the study of different scenarios, it would need the full commitment and cooperation of the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee and the Japanese authorities, and of all the International Federations (IFs) and National Olympic Committees (NOCs) and all stakeholders of the Olympic Games,” wrote Bach.

“It is in light of the worldwide deteriorating situation, and in the spirit of our shared commitment to the Olympic Games, that the IOC Executive Board has initiated the next step in our scenarios.

“Together with all the stakeholders, we have started detailed discussions to complete our assessment of the rapid development of the worldwide health situation and its impact on the Olympic Games, including a scenario of postponement. We are working very hard, and we are confident that we will have finalised these discussions within the next four weeks.”

But that decision is expected over the next 24-48 hours.

Last Friday Swimming Australia started the ball rolling with it’s call that Tokyo 2020 would be held “on an unfair playing field” with major nations like Italy, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, the UAS and Canada – all expressing their concerns about living in the fear of COVID-19, the lack of qualification  tournaments, training and preparation.

Australian head coach Jacco Verhaeren, who coached Pieter van den Hoogenband to back-to-back gold in 2000 and 2004, led the charge saying.“In Europe they live in circumstances where some ountries are in lockdown, meaning you can’t go out anymore at all, not even for a casual walk on the street and that’s getting stricter by the hour there.

“A specific situation, and of course I’m close to the Netherlands and getting a lot of information from there, is that they (have) actually shut down all their high-performance centres as is the case in France, as is the case in Germany and many other countries, and of course Italy.

“The situation is severe and although we can’t look into the future here and won’t but we need to be ready also in Australia for what’s coming.

“Our message is to….make sure we show empathy with our peers, colleagues but also all the people in the world, businesses that are hurt, people losing their jobs and all kinds of things happening that a few months ago we couldn’t even imagine.

“I think we all know what an Olympics stands for. The Olympics is so special, particularly for sports where it is their biggest platform or only real platform.

“When you look around, there are quite a lot of our athletes walking around with the five rings on their chest or their arms. I’ve never seen a FINA logo or a UCI logo or an IAAF logo.

“That shows how big it is and it is so big because everyone in these sports knows that everyone is prepared for the maximum, to the optimum.

“Of course you come across challenges, setbacks, injuries, illness. But this far exceeds this. There is obviously a massive disadvantage for athletes around the world now for athletes that are not in a position and whole countries that are not in a position to prepare themselves for anything, really.” 

Extraordinary Events In Swimming History:

The chronology of cancellation:

Guidance on Water and Coronavirus 

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