Prepare for Olympic delay: AOC to athletes

Rob Forsaith
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Oly20 Aust Virus

"Moving the world's biggest sporting event ... is not easy to do," AOC chief Matt Carroll says

Tough and uncertain times are ahead for Australia's Olympic athletes, who have been told to prepare for Tokyo 2020 to become Tokyo 2021 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) executive board held an emergency teleconference on Monday morning and unanimously agreed a team could not be assembled for the 2020 Olympics given the current situation at home and abroad.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Japanese government, under increasing pressure to take action, flagged that postponement was possible during the past 24 hours.

The IOC indicated its next step could take up to a month but that timeline could change as Australia, Canada and other nations make it clear they do not expect the Games to take place this year.

Australia will miss the summer Olympics for the first time if the opening ceremony is somehow staged on July 24.

The far more likely outcome is an unprecedented shift to a non-Olympic year but even that is yet to be locked in.

"It remains difficult (to postpone an Olympics). Hence why their decision is they'll come back to us within a month," an exhausted chief executive Matt Carroll said on Monday.

"Moving the world's biggest sporting event, which involves so many sports, athletes, the world's media, sponsors and the rest ... is not easy to do."

The IOC insists cancellation is not on its agenda.

Australian team chef de Mission for Tokyo Ian Chesterman admitted recent "stress and uncertainty has been extremely challenging" for athletes.

A different type of stress may now take hold for those who made financial and/or professional sacrifices in an effort to compete at the Games.

"It is very difficult for those amateur athletes. Because some of them could have part-time jobs they don't have any more," Carroll said.

"International competitions has stopped now so they don't have the prize money they would otherwise get.

"We're engaging with the athletes on that to find out if there are any doing it tough and we'll work with them."

Carroll passed on a similar message to his counterparts at various Australian sports governing bodies, plus Sport Australia and the AIS, during a teleconference on Monday.

"A lot of them are very small organisations ... we're working with them and the government to see how we can assist the sports," he said.

The AOC last Thursday backed the IOC's stance, outlining extreme isolation measures that could potentially be used in coming months to help athletes try to compete at Japan and avoid contracting the coronavirus.

The penny dropped on Monday amid Australia's unprecedented ban on international travel, states closing their borders and a range of other extreme measures in place.

"Last Thursday was a different set of circumstances to standing here today," Carroll said.

"There has been dramatic change in our own country and across the world.

"We have athletes based overseas, training at central locations around Australia as teams and managing their own programs. With travel and other restrictions this becomes an untenable situation."

Paralympics Australia released a statement, noting it "is wholly supportive of a postponement of the Paralympic Games in the best interests of public health, both here and abroad".

"It is hard to see another option," it said.