Olympic Bosses Said To Have Ruled Out Spectator-Free Tokyo 2020 Games As Bach Faces Rising Tide Of Calls To Postpone

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The International Olympic Committee (IOC) appears to have ruled outstaging the Tokyo 2020 Games behind closed doors without spectators because it would run counter to the universality philosophy of a movement that aims to bring people from every corner of the world together in a ‘politics-free-zone’ celebration of sport, according to The Guardian, quoting Olympic sources.

The IOC continues to maintain that the show will go on from July 24 in Tokyo regardless of the global wipeout of the world sports calendar, the at bulk of Olympic test events and trials in many sports now cancelled or postponed due to coronavirus (COVID-19) containment measures.

Thomas Bach, the president of the IOC, is the subject of increasingly hostile media coverage, a commentary in the leading European magazine Der Spiegel calling for a halt to the Games and suggesting that Bach will have no choice – it’s over – and a decision will have to

Under a headline “With all my might”, writer Jens Weinreich notes: “… Bach clings to his date for the Games in Tokyo with a mixture of defiance and calculation. In fact, a shift due to the corona crisis is inevitable”.

He says: “Stubborn …  Bach is responsible for protecting the health of the athletes + integrity of olympic competitions” and concludes:

” … if the Games are postponed, summer 2022 should be the first choice. So far, IOC President Bach has refused to talk about alternatives. He’ll have to do it this week … the tide is up to his neck.”

The notion of holding spectator-free events in Tokyo have been rejected by the IOC in internal meeting, according to an IOC source who told The Guardian:

Another said:

“An event with closed doors and no spectators is not an option.”

Any major disruption to the Games’ scheduling would have consequences for sponsors, broadcasters, 11,000 Olympic and 4,400 Paralympic athletes, staff, airlines, hotels and volunteers and could saddle organisers with $1bn in lost ticket sales.” reports The Guardian, which raises what the IOC is considering to be one of the key issues as it plans for a July 24 start in the face of devastating news emerging from countries far and wide, the coronavirus (COVID-19) death toll now over 6,500 and rising rapidly.

Italy, which is estimated to be 2-4 weeks ahead of neighbouring European countries on the curve of infections, reported a further 360-plus deaths on Sunday alone as Spain and France turned the screw on stringent containment measures and German closed its borders and announced that nationwide school closures would be followed tomorrow by the closure of all restaurants and non-essential shops.

tokyo2020-logoMeanwhile, the IOC is still talking of the need to relax qualification standards so that, as The Guardian put it “athletes who are on the borderline can be selected even if they are unable to compete in the coming months because of the pandemic”.

The issue will be one of the key talking points at an IOC executive board meeting on Tuesday, with talk that, as the world clocks down, Olympic leaders are heading in the opposite direction and looking at ways to house more athletes in Tokyo if nations elect a greater number of athletes.

The Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, has said that he wants the Olympics in Tokyo to represent a world victory over coronavirus.

However, a telephone poll conducted by the Kyodo news agency in Japan produced a 69% majority that thought Tokyo would not be able to stage the Games on the planned dates.

That poll is closer in line with health experts forecasting an early summer/June peak for the spread of the virus, with a 10-week window weather side during which the picture far and wide will be devastating.

The IOC has said that it will follow the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO), which, as things stand, is fundamentally opposed to mass-gathering events being allowed to take place.

That WHO advice is now being applied far and wide, the European Union having barred travel to the EU from any citizens outside the union bloc today, many nations within the EU having closed their borders and several nations, such as the UK in the past few minutes, having told their populations that the challenge is not one of “a matter of weeks” but “many months of disruption that will have significant effects on people and society”.

So far, the IOC believes that that disruption does not affect its realm enough to halt and work on a postponement plan.

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 

9 comments

  1. Nicolas Messer

    It’s time to act for IOC … nobody can make plans or guarantee things, however, you can respect the athletes and give them a “timeline”.

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

      Absolutely, Nicolas.

  2. Chris Guesdon

    Bach is a dill. Bring the spectators into Tokyo just to satisfy an outdated reason and see many die of the virus. These people always have to be forced into doing whats right they never make the decision themselves

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

      Indeed Chris

  3. Em Harrison

    I might be wrong but for someone who is hoping to qualify for Olympics in future. Health is most important and comes first. Yes athletes have sacrificed so much and worked hard but imagine if event did go ahead and something were to happen. Yes Financially it’s a huge impact but would be more if an outbreak. It does not seem appealing going and putting health at risk and having unpredictable training environments prior. Postponing event wouldn’t hurt and it’s better then being cancelled. There is more to life then sport and sometimes other things have to come first.

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

      Brava, Em

  4. Sainter Nan

    Beautifully said Em

    😍😍😍😍