WHILE A decision does not appear imminent, or indeed forthcoming, the prospect of the Olympic Games being postponed until 2021, as the coronavirus crisis escalates, remains a live possibility.
Donegal competitors who have either qualified or hoping to qualify for the Games, due to begin in Tokyo in late July, are in something of a state of limbo as uncertainty rules the sporting world at this time.
Brendan Boyce has already qualified in the men’s 50k race walk, while Mark English was set to head off to America for a series of races in April that have now been shelved. The three-time European medallist, who recently confirmed his move to Donegal club Finn Valley AC – also the stable of Boyce – had hoped to seal qualification by June.
A whole host of athletics meets, including three Diamond League races, have been shelved, the US Olympic Trials, due in June, appear in doubt while Boyce has had to abandon plans to go abroad for altitude training.
Raphoe badminton due Chloe and Sam Magee also harboured designs on Tokyo but they, too, must play a waiting game.
The IOC remains, publicly at least, committed to the Games proceeding as scheduled, but as the days pass that appears a perhaps fanciful notion given the complexities of the qualification process in some sports – the European qualifiers in boxing, for instance, were suspended mid-competition earlier this week.
“The IOC remains fully committed to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, and with more than four months to go before the Games there is no need for any drastic decisions at this stage; and any speculation at this moment would be counter-productive,” the IOC said this week.
“The IOC encourages all athletes to continue to prepare for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 as best they can. We will keep supporting the athletes by consulting with them and their respective NOCs, and by providing them with the latest information and developments, which are accessible for athletes worldwide on the Athlete365 website and via their respective NOCs and IFs.”
The IOC President Thomas Bach strongly added: “We owe it to all the half of the world that watches the Olympics to say we are not putting the cancellation of the Games on the agenda.”
While there is the possibility of the Games being pushed down the track until later in the year, the option of a 12-month postponement, like has happened the European Championships in football, is increasingly likely.
Only three times in history have the Games not gone ahead as scheduled – in 1916, 1940 and 1944, each time due to the World Wars.
This week, Sport Ireland’s Chief Executive John Treacy called for a postponement of the Games.
“I think the least-worst option would be to put them back until the autumn,” Treacy told The Irish Times.
“If that doesn’t happen, then give it the year. That decision needs to come sooner rather than later. Athlete welfare is the most important thing here. Time is running out.”
Last week, English outlined his hopes for the year when he said, albeit before the cessation of sport due to the COVID-19 outbreak: “The Olympics is the pinnacle for every athlete. I’m really excited and it will be a massive chance for me to show what I can do having taken the year off from my studies. I want to be in Tokyo to show what I can do.”
Earlier this week, Boyce told the Irish Examiner: “I suppose we just have to stay going until someone comes along and says the Olympics are postponed. We just have to assume it is going ahead. There is no other way to approach it but to prepare as normal, or as normal as possible in current circumstances.”