The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee on Monday night signaled it supported delaying the 2020 Olympic Games next summer in Tokyo amid the spread of the coronavirus, saying in a statement: “the path toward postponement is the most promising.”
“We are thankful to the 1,780 Team USA athletes for sharing their voice and honest input with us as we address the issues related to COVID-19 and the Tokyo Games, and make good on our promise to put athletes first. We are now confident that we have heard a wide range of viewpoints and understand the diversity of challenges our athletes face. We regret that there is no outcome that can solve all the concerns we face. Our most important conclusion from this broad athlete response is that even if the current significant health concerns could be alleviated by late summer, the enormous disruptions to the training environment, doping controls and qualification process can’t be overcome in a satisfactory manner,” the statement read.
“To that end, it’s more clear than ever that the path toward postponement is the most promising, and we encourage the [International Olympic Committee] to take all needed steps to ensure the Games can be conducted under safe and fair conditions for all competitors. We look forward to their feedback and direction, and stand ready to work in support of Team USA and in full cooperation with the global community.”
Of those Team USA athletes, 92 percent said the coronavirus epidemic affected the quality of their training; 63 percent said the outbreak left them at severe detriment or unable to train.
Among the issues: the availability of venues in Japan, the disruption to the international sports calendar during whatever new date is chosen, the resetting of qualifying procedures and insurance considerations.
The IOC told Fox News in response that its position “has not changed.” The committee announced this past Sunday it was ramping up “scenario-planning” to prepare potentially for delaying the games.
A track group called The Athletics Association had been pressing the IOC to act.
The track group has been led by two-time Olympic champion Christian Taylor of the U.S., who said over 4,000 track and field athletes responded to a survey, and 87 percent said the coronavirus hurt their training.
Officials had been weighing options and planning different scenarios for the July 24-Aug. 9 games in Tokyo, the International Olympic Committee announced Sunday.
In a letter, IOC President Thomas Bach wrote: “Human lives take precedence over everything, including the staging of the Games. The IOC wants to be part of the solution. Therefore we have made it our leading principle to safeguard the health of everyone involved, and to contribute to containing the virus. I wish, and we all are working for this, that the hope so many athletes, NOCs and IFs from all five continents have expressed will be fulfilled: that at the end of this dark tunnel we are all going through together, not knowing how long it is, the Olympic flame will be a light at the end of this tunnel.”
Fox News’ Vicki Choi and Kathleen Reuschle contributed to this report.