Inevitable decision but rearranged Olympic Games can be a source of inspiration

Swim England chief executive Jane Nickerson has backed the decision to postpone the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games – but urged everyone to use the rearranged events as a source of inspiration for the future.

The International Olympic Committee confirmed the XXXII Olympiad ‘must be rescheduled to a date beyond 2020 but no later than summer 2021’ due to the coronavirus pandemic sweeping across the globe.

While the delay is clearly disappointing, Jane said it was an inevitable and understandable decision

She added: “It’s absolutely the right call to make as athletes are unable to prepare for what could be their only chance at an Olympic Games.

“My heart goes out to those who had trained so hard for this summer but there are more important concerns around the world currently and the focus should be on tackling the spread of coronavirus.

“I hope everyone who had either already been selected to compete in the Olympics, or those aiming to qualify, stay fit and healthy during this enforced break, use the Games as a source of inspiration and come back even stronger.”

Light at the end of the tunnel

A statement from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) read: “The President of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, and the Prime Minister of Japan, Abe Shinzo, held a conference call to discuss the constantly changing environment with regard to COVID-19 and the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

“In the present circumstances, and based on the information provided by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the IOC President and the Prime Minister of Japan have concluded that the Games of the XXXII Olympiad in Tokyo must be rescheduled to a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021, to safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games and the international community.

“The leaders agreed that the Olympic Games in Tokyo could stand as a beacon of hope to the world during these troubled times and that the Olympic flame could become the light at the end of the tunnel in which the world finds itself at present.

“Therefore, it was agreed that the Olympic flame will stay in Japan. It was also agreed that the Games will keep the name Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.”

The right decision

British Swimming chief executive Jack Buckner said: “Given the current circumstances, this is undoubtedly the right decision.

“The global COVID-19 pandemic is affecting people worldwide – getting it under control and protecting the health of the global population should clearly be the number one priority at this moment in time.

“The Olympic and Paralympic Games are an inspirational spectacle that take place every four years, but the health of athletes, coaches, officials, volunteers and spectators supersedes sporting endeavour.

“Our athletes and coaches are currently following the advice of the UK Government by practising social distancing measures and are therefore not in the water.

“Were they attempting to train for the biggest sporting event of the quadrennial, they would be putting the health of themselves and those around them at risk, which I’m sure everyone would agree would be both dangerous and extremely selfish.

“The need for pools clearly means our sports are some of the worst affected by the latest government enforcements, and without the vital preparation, the Tokyo 2020 Games would not be the pinnacle of sporting achievement that we expect from an Olympic and Paralympic Games.

“At a time like this, I urge both the aquatics and sporting world to pull together and support their government’s advice, which will push back against the pandemic, save lives and allow sport to continue to engage and inspire people in the not too distant future.”

Uncertainty removed

British Para-Swimming Performance Director Chris Furber added: “I speak on behalf of everyone at British Para-Swimming when I say this is the right decision.

“All of our para-swimmers are no longer able to train in the water and delaying the decision would only have put the health of athletes across the globe at risk.

“Due to the health conditions of athletes in para-sport, there will be many who may have to go into self-isolation for the next 12 weeks, which clearly doesn’t support preparation for the biggest sporting event in the world.

“I’m also pleased that the uncertainty has been removed and people involved with high performance sport worldwide can begin to prepare for a Games in 18 months’ time.”

Symbol of hope

Andy Anson, the chief executive of the BOA, said: “It is with profound sadness that we accept the postponement, but in all consciousness it is the only decision we can support, in light of the devastating impact COVID-19 is having on our nation, our communities and our families.

“Alongside UK Sport and the British Paralympic Association, we have consulted with the National Governing Bodies of summer Olympic and Paralympic sports and with athlete representative groups, including our Athletes’ Commissions and the British Athletes’ Commission.

“It is with their input and support that we have a unanimous view that the impact of COVID-19 on athletes’ training and preparation means their regimes are now compromised irreparably. It is time for them to stop thinking about Tokyo 2020 for now and be home and safe with their families.

“It would have been unthinkable for us to continue to prepare for an Olympic Games at a time the nation and the world no less is enduring great hardship. A postponement is the right decision.

“We have incredible sympathy for the Tokyo 2020 organising committee and indeed our colleagues at the IOC, who are working tirelessly to seek a positive outcome to this difficult scenario.

“The Olympic Games is a symbol of hope for us all and we are sure that we will be in Tokyo at the right and appropriate time as the world re-emerges from this dark period.”