USOPC hears athletes, sees Olympics delay as ‘clear’ path

National Sports Headlines

The Olympic rings float in the water near the Rainbow Bridge in the Odaiba section of Tokyo, Monday, March 23, 2020. The Tokyo Olympics are going to happen — but almost surely in 2021 rather than in four months as planned. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

DENVER (AP) — Leaders of the U.S. Olympic team said “it’s more clear than ever that the path toward postponement” of the Tokyo Games “is most promising” — a conclusion drawn from a survey in which nearly seven in 10 American Olympic hopefuls say they don’t think the games will be fair if held in July.

The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee sent a survey over the weekend to more than 4,000 athletes for details on how the coronavirus pandemic has influenced their training and their feelings about the upcoming games; they received responses from 1,780.

Sixty-nine percent said they would feel comfortable competing in July if the World Health Organization — one of the groups consulting with the IOC — deemed it safe. But virtually that same number — 68% — said they didn’t think the Olympics would be fair under those circumstances.

The best explanation for that has been the massive disruption in training schedules, as athletes prepare for qualifying events this spring and summer. Other concerns were over unfair qualifying standards and the undermining of worldwide drug-testing protocols.

With city and state governments closing gyms and asking people to stay in their homes, fewer than one in 10 of the athletes said they can continue to train without any impact. And 65% said that continuing to train and prepare will put their health at risk.

The USOPC has come under criticism for not advocating for a postponement, which is the position taken by its own sports organizations in swimming, track and gymnastics, along with national committees in Canada, Australia, Brazil and Germany.

Part of the hesitance, CEO Sarah Hirshland told The Associated Press on Sunday, was to get a clearer picture from athletes about their training conditions and their feelings. Armed with the data, Hirshland and board chair Susanne Lyons put out their strongest statement to date.

“It’s more clear than ever that the path toward postponement is the most promising, and we encourage the IOC to take all needed steps to ensure the Games can be conducted under safe and fair conditions for all competitors,” they said in a statement.

The calls for postponement are growing seemingly by the hour, and the chances of it happening felt virtually certain by Monday evening.

An IOC member, Craig Reedie, told AP that conditions in Japan and worldwide “clearly indicates the likelihood of postponement.” The decision will be made within four weeks, with IOC President Thomas Bach guiding the outcome.

Bach has taken the idea of a full cancellation off the board, and the American athletes agreed with that view: 93% said they preferred the option of postponing over canceling.

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