Japanese Olympic committee member calls for 2020 Olympics postponement amid coronavirus pandemic

Those in charge of the upcoming Summer Olympics in Tokyo have held strong, for the most part, about the games starting on time amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

One member of Japan’s Olympic Committee, however, has changed her position on the matter.

In her eyes, the games need to be postponed. 

[ Coronavirus: How the sports world is responding to the pandemic ]

Kaori Yamaguchi, a former judo athlete, said Thursday that she believes the International Olympic Committee is “putting athletes at risk” by asking them to train and prepare for the games as usual despite the coronavirus pandemic — which has infected more than 234,000 people and killed at least 9,800 as of Thursday night, via the New York Times.

“Unlike other sporting events, the Olympics symbolize the ideal that sports bring about world peace,” Yamaguchi told Nikkei, a Japanese news organization, via USA Today. “We should not hold [the Olympics] if people across the world can’t enjoy themselves.”

Nearly every major sports league in the United States has suspended operations, postponed and canceled events amid the outbreak, starting with the NBA earlier this month following Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert’s positive test. A number of other NBA players and team employees have since tested positive, too.

IOC remains adamant about Olympics

Despite mass cancelations, the IOC is still urging its athletes to continue training for the games, which are slated to start on July 24. 

Several athletes and national Olympic committee representatives were on a two-hour conference call with the IOC this week, which included IOC president Thomas Bach, and were left extremely frustrated.

“The message was not, ‘Protect yourselves and protect your community,’ it was, ‘Find a way to train,’” Han Xiao, a table tennis player and an athlete representative from the United States, said. “Regardless of their intentions, their first priority is not the public health aspect of it. For me, it’s like, ‘Is that consistent with your values? Is that how you want to be perceived as a member of global society?’”

With the outbreak, Yamaguchi doesn’t believe athletes are even capable of training properly.

“I don’t think the situation allows for athletes to continue training as usual … By asking them to train under these conditions, the IOC is opening itself up [to] the criticism that it is not putting athletes first,” Yamaguchi said, via Nikkei.

Yamaguchi, one of 23 members, said she plans to argue her stance at an upcoming committee meeting.

She is also pushing for the IOC to institute a deadline for a final decision on the games, something the organization has declined to do. One member of the board had previously said that a decision could come as late as May.

“Even if there is a reason that prevents the IOC from making a decision right now, [the IOC] should indicate a deadline,” Yamaguchi said, via Nikkei. “A sudden announcement … is not acceptable.”

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