Michael Gross Issues Albatross Warning To Bach: Save Olympic Dreams With Tokyo 2021

Michael Gross - Photo Courtesy: dpa

Michael Gross, the great German butterfly and freestyle swimming ace of the 1980s. has called for the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games until 2021 or 2022 in a direct appeal to Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee.

One of the legends of swimming history, known as “The Albatross” for the 2.13m wingspan of outstretched arms with which he flew to three Olympic titles among six ultimate-podium visits and five World titles, Gross spoke directly to Bach’s own experience: both the swimmer and the former fencer had their own Olympic dreams brought to an end in 1980 when the Federal Republic of Germany joined the boycott of the Moscow Games.

In Facebook post picked up by dpa, the German news agency, Gross, 55, tells Bach that where in 1980 many lost their Olympic Dream, now the IOC boss had it in his hands “to save the Olympic Dream for many athletes”.

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 today in Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed that the nation’s international travel ban imposed to combat the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic will apply to Olympic athletes,  casting major doubts on Australia’s participation at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, albeit 14-15 weeks before the official period of the Olympic Games begins.

The Australian travel ban comes into force this hour, the Government notice headed with this instruction:

“From 9pm AEDT 20 March 2020, only Australian citizens, residents and immediate family members can travel to Australia. All travellers to Australia are required to self-isolate for 14 days, either at home or in a hotel.”

In Germany, the intervention of a German sports legend adds to the sense in Bach’s home country that he is now an old fencer on the back foot with no option other than to announce a postponement this coming week.

Gross writes that “2020 would be unfair!” and urges Bach “think again” and change course from a “show must go on” mantra, the alternative to which has so far been presented as “cancellation”.


Michael Gross – Photo Courtesy: Wikipedia

Gross writes:

“Dear Thomas, we both suffered the Olympic boycott together in 1980. For many athletes, our teammates, the Olympic Dream came to an end – once and for all.

This time it is about you being able to save the Olympic Dream for many athletes – by postponing the Games until 2021 or 2022. Right NOW, 2020 would be unfair!”

The former World record holder, who claimed the 100m butterfly and 200m freestyle Olympic titles at Los Angeles in 1984 and the 200m butterfly crown at the Seoul 19888 Olympic Games, adds:

“Many athletes cannot train or are only able to train poorly, qualifications cannot take place in many sports, the global anti-doping system is at a standstill, etc. … This creates unfair conditions. Right NOW, postponing the Games would take the pressure off EVERYONE. Right now, there is something more important than the Olympics.

Gross signs off: “Think again…”

Bach, 66 and an FRG team fencing gold medallist at Montreal 1976, has argued that cancellation of Tokyo 2020 would “destroy” Olympic dreams but he has studiously avoided open consideration of a postponement Plan B.

Even yesterday, in an interview with Südwestrundfunk, Bach screeched past the postponement issue and said:

“The cancellation would destroy the Olympic dream of 11,000 athletes from 206 National Olympic Committees and the IOC refugee team. Such a cancellation would be the least fair solution.”

Why Calling A Halt Make Sense, Says Aussie Football Boss

Gross adds his name to a growing chaos of leading lights in sport urging those who want to press ahead with business as usual that 2020 can longer be business as usual.

Earlier on Sunday in Australia at a live press conference on Channel 7, Australian Football League CEO Gill McLachlan announced that the season had been suspended, Ian Hanson, Ocean Correspondent, notes in a dispatch from Down Under that reflects the depth and breadth of events across the sports spectrum.

“Football is facing its biggest crisis in its history, “McLachlan declared. “The 2020 AFL season is on hold for two months as coronavirus continues to grip the globe, while no AFL Women’s premier will be anointed (as the teams played their finals Series).”

McLachlan said the decision by a number of states – including Victoria – to close borders and impose travel bans had left the League with little choice.

“It was time for the AFL to stop the AFLW and AFL competitions,” he said.

“The AFL industry is facing its biggest financial crisis in our history. But our key priority is to do everything possible to keep players, staff and supporters healthy and well throughout this pandemic.

“To say that this is the most serious threat to our game in 100 years is an understatement. It is unprecedented in its impact. It is unprecedented in the impact it’s having on our game and the wider community, and as a community and as a code, we all need to take the unprecedented and required actions to get through this together.

“I know that everyone involved in our game and our millions of supporters will be impacted by this decision, and that many people will suffer significant hardship, as are people right across our community. But I also know that we all have a responsibility to the community, and to each other, and we will have to work collectively to overcome this crisis.”

Games will be suspended until May 31, with the situation to be reviewed at the end of April, and all club training has been suspended.

“The date could be extended out,” McLachlan said. The AFL boss admitted he “never thought it would come to this”.

“Unimaginable two weeks ago, three weeks ago,” he said. “Let alone a year ago.”

“We’re not alone. This is just unprecedented … for our communities, for Australians. There are a lot of people having to make tough decisions to get us through this.”

He said clubs were “shocked”, and that “things have become very real in the last couple of hours”, and that the solvency of some clubs would be challenged but boosted by Federal Government assistance.

“But we’ll get there,” he said.

Meanwhile, A note on the Albatross

“Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.”

From The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (originally The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere) is the longest major poem by the English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, written in 1797–98 and published in 1798 in the first edition of Lyrical Ballads.

Albatrosses have been described as “the most legendary of all birds” (iHandbook of Birds, World Vol 1. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions, ISBN 84-87334-10-5). An albatross is the central emblem in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, representing the innocence and beauty of God’s creation.

The albatross metaphor is derived from this poem; someone bearing a burden or facing an obstacle is said to have “an albatross around his neck”, the punishment given to the mariner who killed the albatross.

A widespread myth holds that sailors believe shooting or harming an albatross is disastrous, due in part to the poem; in truth, sailors regularly killed and ate them, as reported by James Cook in 1772. However, other sailors reportedly caught the birds but let them free again, possibly believing that albatrosses were the souls of lost sailors, so killing them would bring bad luck.

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Neil Earl
4 years ago

They have to stay on schedule,as planned.

Craig Lord
4 years ago
Reply to  Neil Earl

Neil Earl they won’t

Neil Earl
4 years ago
Reply to  Neil Earl

Everything is in place.The Torch Relay kicks off this week and all the volunteers have their assignments.If they cancel,it will be a blow to the Japanese for they have put a lot of money toward this.??

Craig Lord
4 years ago
Reply to  Neil Earl

Neil Earl it won’t happen … the call is not to cancel but to postpone … there is money , ingenuity and more aplenty to adjust in a way that saves the Games in a respectful, decent way.

Neil Earl
4 years ago
Reply to  Neil Earl

I,m sorry I am just giving my opinion.

Craig Lord
4 years ago
Reply to  Neil Earl

Neil Earl no problem with that … the wind is blowing, however … if it goes ahead I would imagine it would go ahead under forced boycott conditions, some nations , like Italy for sure, unable and unwilling to attend … that would be a disaster for the Games, for Tokyo and for the IOC

Neil Earl
4 years ago
Reply to  Neil Earl

Possibly,maybe this thing will be contained by then.

Craig Lord
4 years ago
Reply to  Neil Earl

Neil Earl maybe but no containing the fact that for many swimmers their Olympic preps, trials etc are over and there will be no time to recover … so IOC Tokyo would be turning clock back 100 years to a time when it was irrelevant to Games bosses et al how difficult the voyage was, how unfair the rules were, whether some had cheated or not … there are a ton of reasons why the current leadership on this must wake up to the realities of 2020

Bill Strömberg
4 years ago

..I like the words from Gross.

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