High-ranking local sports officials spoke in unison on Wednesday while welcoming the decision to postpone the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
For weeks, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach resisted pressure from all sides—with the hope of promoting the Summer Games “as the balm the world needed to show victory” over the scourge that has so far claimed almost 21,000 lives and infected over 480,000 people worldwide.
On Tuesday, the duo, drowning in a deluge of resistance from athletes, national Olympic committees and health experts, sharply made an about face, agreeing to postpone the Games of the 32nd Olympiad originally scheduled to begin on July 24 “to a date not later than summer of 2021.”
This marks the first time in history that the start of the Games will be delayed by a year.
In a joint statement, the IOC and the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee said the delaying of the Games was necessary “to safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games and the international community.”
The statement concluded that “the Olympic flame will stay in Japan” and “the Games will keep the name Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.”
“I have always expressed that I favor … postponement given the way the crisis seems to be taking,” said Philippine Sports Commission Chair William Ramirez. “As I have said before, safety and health of everyone is top priority.”
Earlier, Philippine Olympic Committee president Abraham Tolentino said the safety of all in sports “here and abroad is paramount in this COVID-19 pandemic.”
Football federation president Mariano Araneta said the four athletes already qualified and the athletes from 19 national sports associations still in the hunt for Olympic berths will have to “recalibrate” to enhance their forms while staying healthy in the interim.
Araneta, the country’s chef de mission to Tokyo, said at least it will no longer be impossible for Olympians and wannabes to train under widespread restrictions to control the virus.
Aside from pole vaulter EJ Obiena, world gymnastics champ Carlos Yulo and boxers Eumir Felix Marcial and Irish Magno, others virtually assured of a place in the Summer Games are weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, skateboarder Margielyn Didal and judoka Kiyomi Watanabe.
The country hopes to qualify at least 20 athletes to Tokyo. In Rio de Janeiro in 2016, we sent 13. So far, at least 62 athletes are still vying for spots in the Tokyo Summer Games.
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