Coronavirus: Tokyo Olympics ‘unthinkable’ says BOA chairman

A general view of the Olympic rings near Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London

A general view of the Olympic rings near Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London - Credit: PA

Chairman of the British Olympic Association Hugh Robertson says it is unthinkable that this summer’s Tokyo Games will not get postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The BOA will join the growing calls for the Games, due to start on July 24, to be delayed, with Canada and Australia already saying they will not send a team to Japan.

The BOA, the British Paralympic Association and funding body UK Sport will hold a conference call on Tuesday afternoon with bosses from the summer Olympic and Paralympic sports to finalise the decision.

An official announcement from Tokyo 2020 could come on Monday as the executive board are meeting and then holding a press conference afterwards.

Robertson told the Today programme on BBC Radio 4: “We are pretty much there, I think a postponement is pretty much inevitable.

“The final piece with the jigsaw is that we have telephone call this afternoon with UK Sport, the British Paralympic Association, our sports’ and athletes’ representatives, just to absolutely nail this down.

“I really don’t see how there is any way the IOC can press ahead with a start in July this year. We have always said there were two things that for us were really important here.

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“The first was preserving the competitive integrity of the Olympic Games when the countries are effectively in lockdown and athletes can’t train and some of them may catch the coronavirus, there is no way you can preserve that competitive integrity.

“Secondly there is a really serious question about whether it would be appropriate to hold an Olympic Games against this backdrop.

“For both of those reasons, it is my personal view, that July is a total non-starter, but we just need to do that final bit of consultation.”

International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Dick Pound had said the organisation has already decided to postpone the showpiece event.

“On the basis of the information the IOC has, postponement has been decided,” Pound told USA Today.

“The parameters going forward have not been determined, but the Games are not going to start on July 24, that much I know.”

The Canadian Olympic and Paralympic committees have announced they will not compete in Tokyo this summer, while the Australians have told their athletes to prepare for a postponement to the summer of 2021.

Team USA said it had surveyed its athletes with nearly 93 per cent of the 1,780 respondents preferring to see the Games postponed rather than outright cancelled, while 68 per cent said the event could not be fairly competed if continued as scheduled.

Prime Minster Boris Johnson’s official spokesperson has urged the IOC to make a “definitive decision”.

“Athletes are facing significant uncertainty in the current environment. Their health and safety, alongside that of sports fans and officials due to work at the Games, must be absolutely paramount,” said the spokesperson.

“We want the International Olympic Committee to make a definitive decision soon to bring clarity to all of those involved.”

Meanwhile, a leading figure on the BOA’s athletes’ commission has described IOC president Thomas Bach as arrogant and stubborn over the organisation’s approach to the pandemic.

Callum Skinner, a 2016 Olympic cycling champion, was scathing about Bach in a social media post.

“IOC president Thomas Bach’s stubbornness and arrogance has spectacularly failed in this instance and he has weakened the Olympic movement,” Skinner wrote on Twitter.

“This isn’t the first time he has put his own motives above the athletes and the movement.”

Elsewhere, Formula One boss Chase Carey is planning a revised season of 15 to 18 races when the sport resumes. The Azerbaijan Grand Prix, which had been due to take place on June 7, was postponed on Monday, the eighth race to be affected so far.

And UEFA has officially postponed the men’s and women’s Champions League finals and the Europa League final, which were all due to take place in May. No decision has been made on rearranged dates.