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  Sports   In Other sports  18 Mar 2020  Athletes fear for their lives after IOC says 'Committed to Olympics'

Athletes fear for their lives after IOC says 'Committed to Olympics'

AFP
Published : Mar 18, 2020, 12:59 pm IST
Updated : Mar 18, 2020, 12:59 pm IST

The IOC wants us to keep risking our health, our family's health and public health to train every day: Katerina Stefanidi of Greece

Katerina Stefanidi, of Greece, on the climbdown after clearing the bar during the pole vault competition in the Millrose Games track and field meet in New York in 2018. AP file photo
 Katerina Stefanidi, of Greece, on the climbdown after clearing the bar during the pole vault competition in the Millrose Games track and field meet in New York in 2018. AP file photo

Tokyo: Olympic pole vault champion Katerina Stefanidi said athletes were being forced to take health risks as competitors started to speak out about holding the Tokyo Games during the coronavirus crisis.

Stefanidi and British heptathlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson both voiced concerns after the International Olympic Committee said it was "fully committed" to running the Games as scheduled from July 24.

 

An IOC member called the body's stance "insensitive and irresponsible", saying athletes were facing "anxiety and heartbreak" as they try to train during the virus emergency.

Stefanidi, one of Greece's most prominent athletes, was scheduled to hand the ceremonial flame to Japanese officials before the Greek leg of the torch relay was scrapped over COVID-19.

"The IOC wants us to keep risking our health, our family's health and public health to train every day?" she tweeted. "You are putting us in danger right now, today, not in 4 months."

On Tuesday, minutes before the IOC statement, the Euro 2020 football tournament was delayed for a year, bowing to the crisis that has paralysed Europe and drastically curtailed international travel.

 

Olympic qualifying tournaments are among the swathe of sports events that have been cancelled or postponed, with only 57 percent of athletes booking their places so far.

"It's unbelievable," said Stefanidi. "What about team sports that have to train together? What about swimming? What about gymnastics that they touch the same objects?

"There is zero consideration of the risk they are putting us in right now."

Johnson-Thompson, the world heptathlon champion, criticised the IOC for telling athletes to train "as best they can", saying it was at odds with stringent government health measures.

"I feel under pressure to train and keep the same routine which is impossible," she wrote on Twitter.

 

"It's difficult (to) approach the season when everything has changed in the lead-up apart from the ultimate deadline," added the Briton.

On Wednesday an Olympic gymnastics qualifier in Tokyo, doubling as a test event, became the latest competition to be cancelled.

A day earlier, the deputy head of Japan's Olympic committee said he had tested positive for coronavirus.

But the IOC insisted "there is no need for any drastic decisions at this stage" adding that "any speculation at this moment would be counter-productive".

Middle-distance runner Jess Judd also criticised the IOC advice on training, while fellow British track athlete Guy Learmonth has told The Guardian that the Olympics should be postponed.

 

Tags: 2020 tokyo olympics, covid-19
Location: Japan, Tokyo-to, Tokyo