The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has still not yet cancelled its events.
Instead, the IOC is steadfast in its determination to host the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, which are scheduled to take place in July and August.
The sports controlling body, based in Lausanne, Switzerland, is facing a huge dilemma whatever it decides. If it cancels the Games, it will face losses running into the billions, but if it goes ahead, it faces a minefield of problems – the biggest being who will actually compete in Japan in a few months’ time.
The Olympics are a meal ticket for lawyers, with court cases looming large if the event is cancelled.
The Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic has disrupted qualifications, with only 57% of the athletes having already qualified for the multicoded event.
For the 43% of places still up for grabs, the IOC has undertaken to make the necessary and practical adaptations to the international federations’ respective qualification systems.
To date, just over 100 athletes from various sporting codes have booked their provisional berths in Team SA, and the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) is expecting to take a 200-member squad to Japan based on its relaxed qualifying criteria.
Sprinter Akani Simbine is one of the prominent athletes who have already qualified, alongside the Under-23 national football team, and the men’s and women’s hockey teams.
If it cancels the Games, it will face losses running into the billions, but if it goes ahead, it faces a minefield of problems – the biggest being who will actually compete in Japan in a few months’ time.
However, the postponement of qualification events has put a spanner in the works for some, such as defending Olympic champion Wayde van Niekerk, who has just returned to competition following a long injury layoff. The 400m world record-holder is yet to run the qualifying time of 44.90 seconds to justify his place in the team, even though Sascoc has already included him in its preparatory squad.
The IOC has encouraged athletes to continue preparing for the Olympics despite the ongoing global health crisis.
Sascoc acting chief executive Ravi Govender told City Press yesterday that international federations were in support of the IOC’s stance that plans must continue to be made for the global spectacle.
“It’s a very difficult time for all of us, not only sport, given the Covid-19 disaster. There was unanimous support for the motion that the planning for the Tokyo Games remains on track.
“We were also informed by IOC president [Thomas Bach] that the same unanimous support was received within the Olympic movement,” said Govender.
He was one of the international federation’s representatives involved in a teleconference to discuss the coronavirus pandemic and the disruption it has caused to qualifications for the Tokyo Games.
Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee.Picture: Getty Images
The video conference on Wednesday was for all English-speaking national Olympic committees on the continent.
The IOC said all quota places that have already been allocated to date would remain in place.
The international federations would still be required to make proposals for any adaptations to their respective qualification systems.
“Any necessary revisions to the Tokyo qualification systems by sport will be published by early next month and communicated to all stakeholders,” the IOC said this week.
The Olympics bring together more than 10 000 athletes from 190 countries, plus thousands of tourists and spectators.– Additional reporting by Peter Auf der Heyde