Tokyo 2020: UK Athletics boss Nic Coward wants Olympic and Paralympic Games called off to end stress on all athletes
Last Updated: 20/03/20 5:57pm
The chairman of UK Athletics, Nic Coward, believes this summer's Olympic and Paralympic Games should be called off immediately to remove the stress from elite athletes who are unable to train properly because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The IOC and Tokyo Olympics organisers have consistently maintained that this summer's Games - due to officially start on July 24 - will go ahead as planned.
But with ongoing concerns over the spread of COVID-19 leading to restrictions on how and when athletes and para-athletes can train - not to mention the emotional and mental strain on them - Coward is convinced now is the time to call off the Games.
BOA won't 'endanger' athletes for Tokyo
The British Olympic Association has vowed not to endanger the health of athletes amid the "significant challenges" posed by the coronavirus ahead of Tokyo 2020.
Asked whether he felt the Games should be called off, Coward told The Telegraph: "Yeah, it seems to be absolutely what has to happen. And look, it shouldn't surprise anyone that these very personal experiences take time to come through to the IOC level. I can understand that.
"But as governments take action to protect their people - which includes closing down facilities on which athletes and para-athletes rely - and as that message is coming through more clearly now... I mean, we're only a week in in this country."
Coward, a former General Secretary of the Premier League and CEO of the British Horseracing Authority, who has also been acting CEO of the Football Association on two occasions, insisted he was not trying to tell the IOC President Thomas Bach or the Tokyo 2020 organisers what to do.
But he remains convinced cancelling both the Olympics and Paralympics - the latter due to get underway on August 25 - is the right decision.
Coward added: "I can only talk about UK Athletics. They [the IOC and Tokyo 2020 organisers] have to take a global view. All I would say is from a UK perspective, knowing what we know now, even since the Prime Minister's announcement on Tuesday evening, we thought the facilities would be able to remain open. Now they can't. They are closing. And that is creating stress.
IOC should communicate the window for deciding on the ‘20 Olympics. Athletes must keep training but for many there’s nowhere to train! They may risk their lives and others trying to continue training. Answer isn’t just cancel ASAP. But communicate the process to the athletes!— Michael Johnson (@MJGold) March 20, 2020
"From my perspective, right now, I think that will have to lead to the conclusion that the Games must be [postponed]; that the decision has to be made that the Olympic and Paralympic Games can't take place as currently scheduled.
"I've got no doubt, absolutely no doubt that Tokyo will host an amazing Olympics. That's not the question. The issue right now is people, and the stress."
In contrast, The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee has told its athletes they should continue to prepare for Tokyo 2020, while taking appropriate precautions amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Disruptions to qualifying events have been "significant", committee CEO Sarah Hirshland admitted, although she added they are looking at adapting those events in the run-up to the Olympics.