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Kolkata: Sebastian Coe, World Athletics president and one of the most influential figures in sports governance, feels the Tokyo Olympics should be held on schedule as long as the organisers host it in a ‘‘safe and secure’’ manner.
Making a case for the Summer Games to go on, Coe told CNN Sport in an interview: “There’s a rather sobering statistic: 70% of competitors that are chasing an Olympic slot are only going to have one chance of this. To pull the plugs on an Olympic Games when football, tennis, rugby and so many other sports are now up and running – and some even with crowds – where cities are coming out of lockdown and are moving towards normalcy,
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‘’I can see no good reason why you wouldn’t want to do everything you possibly can to make sure that you’re not discarding a generation of athletes who have spent over half their young lives in pursuit of this one moment,” he said. The Tokyo 2020 were postponed last year during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and is rescheduled to be held from July 23 to August 8 this year.
While the Tokyo organising committee and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) are going ahead with the preparations with a stricture on overseas visitors, a citizens’ movement is brewing in Tokyo with a petition garnering thousands of signatures calling for cancellation and the CEO of leading Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten calling plans to host the Games a “suicide mission.”
Coe, however, feels it’s not a cavalier decision to go ahead with the preparation. “Should we have the Games? Yes, we should. Can we have them safely and secure? I believe we can. I’m not cavalier about that. But I do think there are systems that are now tried and tested… I’m confident they will be taking place; everyone is determined to do that,” Coe said.
Holding forth on what he felt would be a ‘‘sterile’’ experience for athletes, Coe observed: ‘‘For the athletes, it’s going to be a sterile experience. I think we have to accept that their day will almost certainly be village to venue, venue back to village and maybe training tracks in between. There is going to be no sightseeing, there are going to be no karaoke bars. I mean, the serious athletes would not be looking for that anyway, but it’s going to be tough.”
Does he feel that mandatory vaccines for the athletes is needed for their safety, Coe felt the choice should be left to the athletes. “I do think that the bulk of the world will be at the Games, and I really hope that they are able to avail themselves if they have vaccines going in their communities. At the moment, the National Olympic Committees around the world are in dialogue with their own governments in different ways. I’ve not been one that has actually favoured mandating it, that athletes have to be vaccinated to be there, but I do encourage them if they are available to avail themselves of them.”
The British middle distance running legend finally called for a consensual approach towards hosting the Games. “It is important that, if it is at all possible – and I genuinely believe it is – to deliver the Games in a safe and secure way, we should be able to do that. The judgement is ultimately going to sit with the International Olympic Committee and government and all the stakeholders involved,” he added.