March 22, 2020 / 9:22 AM / 18 days ago

CORRECTED-Olympics-Croatian Olympic committee joins calls for delaying Games

(Corrects Vanja Udovicic’s position to Serbian Sports and Youth minister in paragraph 7, removes reference to Serbian Olympic Committee opposition to IOC plans)

By Karolos Grohmann

ATHENS, March 22 (Reuters) - The International Olympic Committee faced mounting opposition on Sunday to the current schedule for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games with growing calls for their delay from athletes, teams and federations because of the coronavirus pandemic.

IOC President Thomas Bach, who has insisted the Games will go ahead as planned, said any decision to change an Olympic Games was not a simple matter like rescheduling a game and would need careful planning and information.

“The Olympic Games cannot be moved like a football game next Saturday,” he told Germany’s SWR broadcaster. “It is a complex undertaking and you can only act responsibly when you have a clear decision-making foundation.”

He also ruled out cancelling the Games.

“A cancellation of the Games would be the least fair solution. A cancellation would destroy the Olympic dream of 11,000 athletes of 206 Olympic committees.”

For now both the IOC and the Tokyo Games organisers are planning to go ahead with the July 24-Aug 9 Olympics but as the virus triggers more restrictions and claims more victims around the globe, pressure to at least delay the event is increasing.

“Japan has invested a lot of resources into the Olympics and they are adamant that the Games should go ahead, but that defies common sense and we cannot support it because human lives come first,” Serbian Sports and Youth minister Vanja Udovicic said.

President of the Croatian Olympic Committee, Zlatko Matesa, said it was “impossible” to proceed with the Olympics under the current circumstances.

“No one wants the Games postponed but I think we are close to such a scenario as it seems to be the only option. Sports has come to a halt in all of Europe and no one knows when it will resume,” Matesa said.

“Sports is not an issue now as competing has become impossible. I believe it is impossible for the Games to go ahead as scheduled and in my opinion they should and will be postponed for a few months. It won’t be a dramatic delay.”

USA Track and Field, USA Swimming, the Brazilian Olympic Committee, UK Athletics and the French Swimming Federation have also urged the IOC to postpone the multi-billion dollar event.

Many athletes who are unable to train or compete have also demanded a postponement as qualifying events have been scrapped and training facilities shut down.

Countries have sealed borders and enforced lockdowns to fight the pandemic. The virus has killed around 13,000 people since surfacing in China at the end of last year.

Sources told Reuters on Sunday Tokyo Games organisers had started drafting possible alternatives to holding the Olympics this summer.

“Finally, we have been asked to make a simulation in case of a postponement,” a source close to the organising committee who is involved in drafting the scenarios said.

“We are making alternative plans - plan B, C, D - looking at different postponement time-frames,” said the official, adding the scenarios included cost estimates for different delays. (Reporting by Karolos Grohmann, Additional reporting by Zoran Milosavljevic in Belgrade; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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