Olympic no-show for Aussie athletes
Australian athletes could miss the 2020 Tokyo Olympics if it goes ahead as planned after Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the travel restrictions put in place earlier this week extended to athletes as well.
The Australian government urged Australians to reconsider any "non-essential" overseas travel earlier in the week, before taking the unprecedented step of closing Australia's borders to non-citizens and nonresidents.
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Since then, Australian states began closing their borders with South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory following Tasmania's lead.
But 7 News asked Prime Minster Morrison whether it would also mean Olympic athletes would miss the Games and he said the measures extended to the team - unless the restrictions were lifted by July, which appears unlikely as he also said the crisis could last more than six months.
"The AOC will make their decision but the simple answer is that we have a complete travel ban to the rest of the world, so the smartraveller advice and the advice from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trace I think is pretty clear," he told 7 News.
"The health of all Australians is the most important thing and there's nothing more important than that."
It would be historic if Australia missed the Olympics as the nation has had athletes at every Olympics since the modern Games started in 1896, one of only five countries to have done so.
Last week, the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) released a statement from CEO Matt Carroll who said the AOC would do everything in its power to ensure the safety of athletes.
"We recognise there is a global health crisis. We recognise that people are suffering - people are sick, people are losing jobs, businesses are struggling amid enormous community uncertainty. Things are changing everyday and we all must adapt," he said.
"Equally, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), advised by the World Health Organisation, has assured us that the Olympic Games in Tokyo are proceeding in four months. We owe it to our Australian athletes to do everything we can to ensure they will participate with the best opportunity in those Games."
The world is now awaiting word from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on whether the games will continue as planned.
Although the Japanese Government has held firm that the Games would go ahead, but it is believed the Tokyo organisers are bracing to make an announcement that the Olympics will be postponed.
"Finally, we have been asked to make a simulation in case of a postponement," an official close to the organising committee and involved in drafting the scenarios told Reuters.
"We are making alternative plans - plan B, C, D - looking at different postponement time frames."
It is believed the announcement could come any day that the games will be delayed.
A final decision on postponement will have to come from the IOC but Japan's stance also matters.
The IOC and its powerful chief, Thomas Bach, have stated the Games will go ahead as planned, drawing fire from athletes who say that represents a health risk.
The official involved in drafting scenarios said a long delay might spark complaints from older athletes and require keeping sponsors on board for longer. Another headache is the Olympic village, due to be converted to flats after the Games.
The summer 2021 calendar is already crowded while 2022 features the soccer World Cup and the Beijing Winter Olympics.
In Tokyo, there is a sense delay might be inevitable. Finance Minister Taro Aso has compared Tokyo 2020 to the 1940 Olympics cancelled by World War II, and the boycott of the 1980 Moscow Games.
"It's a problem that's happened every 40 years," he said. "It's the cursed Olympics - and that's a fact."
World Athletics president Sebastian Coe believes the decision may soon become "obvious".
"A decision on the Olympic Games may become very obvious very quickly in the coming days and weeks," Coe said in a statement to Reuters on Saturday. "I don't think we should have the Olympic Games at all costs, certainly not at the cost of athlete safety.
ATHLETES TAKE AIM AT IOC STANCE
Last week, Swimming Australia said the Tokyo Games unable to live up to its fair play charter, but didn't go so far as to demand a postponement.
"(It's) obviously a massive disadvantage around the world now for athletes who are not in a position, and whole countries not in a position, anymore to prepare themselves," head coach Jacco Verhaeren said on Friday.
"We really recognise how difficult it must be to make these decisions in uncertain times.
"What we stand for as a team and in sport, and I think the whole Olympic movement stands for … is fair play and health."
Italy, Germany, France, the Netherlands and several other nations have closed high-performance sporting centres since the outbreak started.
"The situation is severe … we have to make sure that we show empathy with our peers but also all the people in the world," Verhaeren said.
"We are talking at the moment in Australia from a position of strength - we are nowhere near to the circumstances that other countries and athletes and coaches are exposed to."
On Saturday, USA Track and Field (USATF) called for the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee to make representations about delaying the Games in Japan.
"The right and responsible thing to do is prioritise everyone's health and safety, and appropriately recognise the toll this difficult situation has, and continues to take, on our athletes and their Olympic Games preparations," USATF chief executive Max Siegel said.
USA Swimming also called for a one-year postponement as the impact of the lockdown began to hit home.
The Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) also called for this summer's Olympics to be postponed with RFEF president Luis Rubiales making the request to IOC committee member Juan Antonio Samaranch Jr at a meeting with other Spanish sports federations.
"At this time, health must prevail over any other issue and we must be on the side of our government," Rubiales said.
"Sport is our reason for being, but now it must be in the background. We continue to work for football and solutions for this sector, however, now the duty as Spaniards is to stay united and to suspend all sports events."
Similarly, a worldwide group representing Olympic hopefuls has called on the postponement of the Games until the coronavirus pandemic is under control.
"It's bizarre the IOC hasn't shown any real leadership," Caradh O'Donovan said, a Global Athlete founder from Ireland whose karate training has been put on hold due to restrictions in her country. "They're acting as though it's business as usual and it just seems very strange."
"My dream is to go to the Olympics this year but it's an impossible task from my perspective and it's the same for a huge number of athletes. I'd be absolutely stunned if they go on in July, as planned."
On Saturday, one of America's best-known Olympians, hurdler and bobsledder Lolo Jones, told the AP she was hoping the IOC would respond with a postponement.
"If our job as Olympians and Olympic hopefuls is to inspire society and be healthy, we're going in direct conflict with that by going out in public to find gyms and tracks and pools that are still open to train for the Games," Jones said. "Some people are doing that because the IOC is telling us to stay ready, to keep training."
- with wires
Originally published as Olympic no-show for Aussie athletes