If the Tokyo Olympics do not go ahead at the rescheduled dates next year then the 2022 Beijing Winter Games will likely also fall victim to the pandemic, long-time International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound has said.
Pound said that the ripple effect was obviously going to take place, and lead to a cancellation of the Winter Games. This is of a hypothetical scenario (which is more real than the IOC cares to admit) where, with many countries unable to contain the pandemic the IOC will be forced to take the decision of cancelling the Olympics altogether.
“Taking the political side out of it for the moment says there is a Covid problem in July and August next year in Tokyo, it is hard to imagine there is not going to be a knock-on effect in the same area five months later,” Pound told Reuters in a phone interview.
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Pound’s assertions, as removed as they were from the politics, also took into account different scenarios for the Winter Games dependent on what China may feel about allowing Americans into their country, especially considering their inability to control the pandemic.
"There could be the largest number of cases in the world [in the U.S.] and it would be dangerous having Americans coming to China,” Pound said, reaffirming the very strong scenario that rather than a boycott a, debarment could define the Games. "That is an extreme supposition. There are all kinds of crazy things that could happen."
Pound’s comments about the Olympics are at odds with the IOC’s official public statements in many ways. Earlier yesterday the IOC released new qualification criterias for the Tokyo Olympics, sending out a signal that as of now the schedule is on.
“A total of 57 percent of all the qualification places had been confirmed by the time the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 were postponed. In order to adapt the qualification systems for the remaining places to the new timing of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, the qualification system principles were updated, approved by the Qualification Task Force (acting on behalf of the IOC Executive Board) and shared with all the IFs,” IOC said in a statement.
The updated system of qualification includes a large variety of changes and has confirmed a new qualification deadline of June 29 2021. Sport specific qualification periods will be extended as required but have to meet the newly set June 2021 deadline. One of the more important criteria protocols to have come out of the IOC’s statement is regarding age of athletes.
According to the statement, if “a qualification system had a certain age set for it, the criteria should be extended to the new dates as well, so as to allow athletes who were eligible in July 2020 to take part in 2021 as well. All eligibility and age criteria should be set by the respective IFs.”
The exceptions to the age criteria will be in boxing (athletes will have to be born between 1 January 1980 and 31 December 2002) and football. For football the maximum age for the men’s event was 23, but for Tokyo 2020 the IOC has extended it to 24.
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Archery, Boxing and Shooting, three sports Indian athletes are expected to land berths in will see an extension in their qualifying date. Badminton has made adjustments to its qualifying criteria already. The remodified qualification period for Tokyo has been split into two windows – April 29, 2019, to March 15, 2020, and January 4, 2021, to May 2, 2021. This essentially means players who missed out playing tournaments that came amidst the lockdown will have an opportunity to use them to qualify next year. The schedule also allows players who have already qualified or were in prime position to do so to retain points from the events they have played already.
The bigger problems for Olympic athletes and indeed the Olympics itself will be in sports like athletics which will have to make major adjustments to fit the revised calendar.
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