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Olympics set to be called off until 2021

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A postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics now looks inevitable after the governing body of American athletics, USA Track and Field, joined USA Swimming in calling for a delay because of the coronavirus pandemic. Photo: AFP via Getty Images

A postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics now looks inevitable after the governing body of American athletics, USA Track and Field, joined USA Swimming in calling for a delay because of the coronavirus pandemic. Photo: AFP via Getty Images

AFP via Getty Images

A postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics now looks inevitable after the governing body of American athletics, USA Track and Field, joined USA Swimming in calling for a delay because of the coronavirus pandemic. Photo: AFP via Getty Images

A postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics now looks inevitable after the governing body of American athletics, USA Track and Field, joined USA Swimming in calling for a delay because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The US is by far the biggest and most influential stakeholder in the Olympic movement and, with its sports toppling like dominoes, it cannot be long before the US Olympic Committee officially declares for a postponement.

On Friday, UK Athletics chairman Nic Coward became the first senior figure in British sports administration to voice his belief that the Olympics should be called off to "remove the stress" from athletes. The national federations in Norway and Brazil have gone further, each publicly requesting a postponement.

But the fact that major American sports are now lobbying the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee to come out in favour of a delay is hugely significant.

The USOPC is by far the most influential in the world and if it requests a postponement, it is difficult to see how the International Olympic Committee could do anything but acquiesce.

The American market accounts for a huge chunk of the IOC's revenues. Of the $5billion the IOC brought in during the most recent four-year Olympic cycle, nearly three-quarters came from broadcast rights. NBC alone contributed about half of that.

The Games are scheduled to run from July 24 until August 9, with IOC president Thomas Bach and World Athletics president Seb Coe both saying it was too early to make a call, more than four months before the opening ceremony.

Bach instead called on athletes to prepare as well as they could. However, in an interview with the New York Times, Bach conceded for the first time that the IOC were "considering different scenarios" but claimed it was too early to make a decision about postponing the Games.

The IOC's position has prompted a backlash from athletes past and present, many of whom are now unable to train due to social-distancing measures. Matthew Pinsent, the four-time Olympic champion oarsman, branded the federation "tone deaf" as he called for a cancellation. And as global fatalities from Covid-19 continue to rise, other athletes have joined in.

Lolo Jones, the American hurdler-turned-bobsledder, tweeted her approval of the USATF's letter to the USOPC, calling the IOC's position "irresponsible and demeaning".

"I am glad USATF spoke up," she wrote. "IOC encouraged all athletes to continue to prepare for the Olympic Games. Telling athletes to carry on as normal amid this public health crisis is irresponsible and demeaning.

"This international emergency is unprecedented, and the IOC must acknowledge that sport takes a backseat to public health."

Other athletes have started using a #Tokyo2021 hashtag on social media.

In a letter to USOPC chief executive Sarah Hirshland, USATF chief executive Max Siegel said he did not feel it was in the best interests of his athletes to continue to prepare for Tokyo and asked the committee to "advocate for the postponement" of Tokyo 2020.

He wrote: "Unfortunately, while our world class athletes are willing to push themselves to their athletic limit in pursuit of Olympic success, the likelihood that they will be able to properly train in a safe and adequate environment, and replicate the excellence we have all come to expect, does not appear likely in the midst of this global crisis."

He added: "We understand the ramifications of this request, and the realities of trying to coordinate the logistics of a postponed Olympics around the schedules of other athletes, sports federations, key stakeholders, etc, but the alternative of moving forward in the light of the current global situation would not be in the best interest of our athletes - as difficult as that decision might be."

Sunday Indo Sport