Coronavirus: US track joins swimming in pushing for Olympic postponement

USA Track and Field joined USA Swimming on Friday in calling for a postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Games - stubbornly still scheduled to begin in late July - and in pressuring the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee to use its considerable worldwide sway to advocate for a delay due to the global coronavirus pandemic.

Chief executive Max Siegel sent a two-page note to his counterpart at the US.

USATF's letter echoes a similar sentiment made by USA Swimming on Friday afternoon.

A growing number of Canadian athletes have already voiced their displeasure with Olympic leaders such as president Thomas Bach after regional Olympic officials on Wednesday rallied around the IOC and backed its stance on opening the Tokyo Games as scheduled. Though Bach repeatedly has encouraged athletes to continue with their preparations, governments in many countries - as well as parts of the US - have shuttered pools, gyms and tracks.

"The qualifiers are a concern and in that sense it was agreed to analyze other types of qualifiers, such as using the Pan American Games in Lima", said Camilo Perez, president of the Paraguayan committee, referring to the 2019 tournament in Peru. Swimming Canada did not go as far in pushing for a postponement, but did say there are "serious issues" with asking athletes to prepare for the Olympics during a pandemic.

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The Tokyo Olympics are scheduled from July 24 to August 9, followed by the Paralympics from August 25 to September 6.

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As of 1700 GMT on Friday, more than 5,300 people have died around the world and more than 140,000 infected. Zhao has taken to Twitter in the past to angrily counter global criticism of China's handling of Uighurs.

Meanwhile, Japan and the International Olympic Committee pressed forward with the buildup to the Olympics.

"As I said last week, I don't think we should have the Olympic Games at all costs, certainly not at the cost of athlete safety".

The Washington Post wrote on Friday, when Japan held a ceremony to celebrate the arrival of the Olympic flame, that it is "irresponsible. that Olympic and Japanese officials are acting as if the Games can go on as the world battles what threatens to be a historic pandemic".

"The decision about the games doesn't lie directly with us", USOPC board chair Susanne Lyons said.

"Rest assured we are making your concerns clearly known to them", the statement said. And look, it shouldn't surprise anyone that these very personal (athlete) experiences take time to come through to the International Olympic Committee level.

"In the present circumstances in the world, we consider it unwise and nearly irresponsible for athletes and their coaches to continue to prepare for the Games here and around the world under terribly hard and unhealthy conditions", KNWU President Marcel Wintels told the news agency ANP.

Leaders of the track and swimming teams don't appear willing to take that risk, either, though whether they'll act on their own - without the sign-off from the USOPC - remains in question.

  • Lawrence Cooper