Barry: IOC made a sound de­ci­sion

Res­o­lu­tion to post­pone Tokyo Olympics is lauded

Pretoria News - - SPORTS - MATSHELANE MAMABOLO [email protected] MMA

THERE was ac­cep­tance all around as South African ath­letes and sports bod­ies wel­comed, with an at­ti­tude of un­der­stand­ing, news that the 2020 Tokyo Olympics would be post­poned to next year ow­ing to the coro­n­avirus pan­demic.

Ja­panese prime min­is­ter Shinzo Abe and pres­i­dent of the IOC Thomas Bach is­sued a joint state­ment yes­ter­day say­ing that the Olympics which were set for July and Au­gust had been resched­uled to a date be­yond 2020, but not later than the mid­dle of next year given the need to pro­tect the health of ath­letes and just about ev­ery­one who would be in­volved in the Games in­clud­ing spec­ta­tors from COVID-19.

Sas­coc act­ing pres­i­dent Barry Hen­dricks ex­pressed delight that the de­ci­sion was taken swiftly and lauded the IOC for show­ing lead­er­ship.

“It came sooner than ex­pected be­cause they had said about four weeks. We are very happy and ap­pre­ci­ate that the IOC and the IPC (In­ter­na­tional Par­a­lympic Com­mit­tee) made such a sound de­ci­sion. We now need to work with them re­gard­ing the is­sue of qual­i­fi­ca­tion events and the times for th­ese Games. Ob­vi­ously our first fo­cus is to keep safe dur­ing this lock­down and we urge our ath­letes to be safe and prac­tice all the right hy­gienic be­hav­iour,” Hen­dricks said. “As Sas­coc we will do all in our power to get all the nec­es­sary in­for­ma­tion from the IOC and share it with our fed­er­a­tions and ath­letes to make sure we have a strong Team SA for next year.”

Aleck Skhosana, the pres­i­dent of Ath­let­ics South Africa said: “We wel­come this de­ci­sion. This is in line with the po­si­tion we held in our re­cent en­gage­ments with the me­dia, that it would be in the in­ter­est of ath­letes and ev­ery­one else to post­pone the Games to an­other time.

“The post­pone­ment will now give ev­ery­one the op­por­tu­nity to con­cen­trate all re­sources in deal­ing with the fight against this world pan­demic. On the other side, we hope that this will also mean all ath­letes will now have a fair op­por­tu­nity to pre­pare for the Games once the virus is de­feated.”

Star marathoner Stephen Mokoka, whose fifth-place fin­ish at last year’s IAAF World Cham­pi­onships in Doha made him a real medal hope­ful for Team SA, agreed with the IOC’s move.

“Our safety is im­por­tant and I hope they an­nounce the (new) dates that will give us enough time to pre­pare. This is a global mat­ter and I think it is good they post­poned be­cause we are on lock­down now. With such news, there will be no more pan­ick­ing among ath­letes wor­ried about pre­par­ing for up­com­ing events,” Mokoka said.

Com­rades Marathon cham­pion Gerda Steyn was look­ing for­ward to of­fi­cially rep­re­sent­ing SA for the first time on a global stage. While gut­ted that she now has to wait a lit­tle longer, she knows the de­ci­sion is best for ev­ery­one.

“It is dis­ap­point­ing, but much like many other races that have been can­celled re­cently, it was ex­pected. I am grate­ful for the de­ci­sion to post­pone as op­posed to can­celling the Games as a whole. I will re­struc­ture my train­ing as soon as we get more clar­ity on dates, etc. But my im­me­di­ate fo­cus will move to the next most likely event to take place. We have to think about ev­ery­one around us at the mo­ment, and – like Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa said – not to think of our own in­ter­ests but that of the en­tire world, which is health and well be­ing. It is bet­ter to have some more clar­ity than be­ing kept in the dark with re­gards to the de­ci­sions. The Olympic Games in 2021 will be a sym­bol of hope and the fact that we have de­feated the cri­sis.”

The na­tional Un­der-23 men’s foot­ball team were also ex­cit­edly an­tic­i­pat­ing com­pet­ing at the Games, but as­sis­tant coach Kwanele Kopo de­scribed the post­pone­ment as “right”.

“Un­der the cir­cum­stances and cur­rent state of af­fairs, it is prob­a­bly only fair that the Olympics are post­poned. It would have been dif­fi­cult to pre­pare with this cur­rent sit­u­a­tion. Our fo­cus for now should be to keep ev­ery­one safe. So yes, it was a sen­si­ble de­ci­sion by the IOC,” Kopo said.

RYAN WILKISKY

GERDA Steyn says the de­ci­sion to post­pone the Games to next year is best for ev­ery­one. | Back­pagePix

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