In a Letter to Athletes, IOC Sets Four Week Timetable for 2020 Olympic Decision

International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach has sent a letter via the IOC’s Athlete365 program designed to communicate directly to Olympic athletes, saying that the IOC will have a decision about how to proceed with the Tokyo Olympic Games “within the next four weeks.”

“Together with all the stakeholders, we have started detailed discussions today to complete our assessment of the rapid development of the worldwide health situation and its impact on the Olympic Games, including a scenario of postponement,” Bach said. “We are working very hard, and we are confident that we will have finalised these discussions within the next four weeks.

“Our basis of information today is that a final decision about the date of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 now would still be premature.”

The letter comes a day after Bach said that cancellation is not currently in his plans, and that they were looking at creative solutions to some of the problems that would be caused by a delay. He reiterated that the IOC is not currently exploring an outright cancellation, but instead focusing on the options of postponement or holding the event in July as scheduled.

“I know that this unprecedented situation leaves many of your questions open,” Bach said. “I also know that this rational approach may not be in line with the emotions many of you have to go through. Therefore, as we try to address your situation and the questions you may have about your training, your qualification systems and your participation in the Games, we encourage you to keep an eye out for updates on Athlete365, but also to stay in close contact with your NOCs and National Federations.”

Bach, trying to connect with the athletes personally, recounts how he felt when West Germany boycotted the 1980 Olympic Games, which left him unable to defend his 2 Olympic gold medals.

“I think I can feel with those among you who consider the situation to be unsatisfactory,” Bach said. “Even though, in very different circumstances and for very different reasons, I had an experience of uncertainty as an athlete in the lead-up to the Olympic Games Moscow 1980. We were uncertain whether the Games would take place and whether we would be allowed to participate. Quite frankly, I would have preferred it if the decision-makers then would have taken more time to decide on a more sound basis of information.”

The IOC put out a press release accompanying the letter confirming that the IOC has begun planning plans for different scenarios if the Olympic Games were postponed.

“On the one hand, there are significant improvements in Japan where the people are warmly welcoming the Olympic flame. This could strengthen the IOC’s confidence in the Japanese hosts that the IOC could, with certain safety restrictions, organise Olympic Games in the country whilst respecting its principle of safeguarding the health of everyone involved.”

Japan has seen only 1,086 confirmed cases of coronavirus after an early reaction from its government, including a shutdown on travel from neighboring China, and the country plans to send students back to school at the end of the month.

On the other hand, there is a dramatic increase in cases and new outbreaks of COVID-19 in different countries on different continents. This led the (Executive Board) to the conclusion that the IOC needs to take the next step in its scenario-planning. “

Bach’s Complete Letter

Dear Fellow Athletes,

In this unprecedented crisis we are all united.

Like you, we are very much concerned about what the COVID-19 pandemic is doing to people’s lives. Human lives take precedence over everything, including the staging of the Games. The IOC wants to be part of the solution. Therefore we have made it our leading principle to safeguard the health of everyone involved, and to contribute to containing the virus. I would like to assure you that we will adhere to this in all our decisions concerning the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

The road to Tokyo is very different for each of you, coming from 206 NOCs. Many of you cannot prepare and train in the way you are used to, or even not at all because of the anti-COVID-19 measures in your country. Many of you are in training and are looking forward to making your Olympic dream come true. Many of you are already qualified for the Games; a significant number are not.

What we all share, however, is tremendous uncertainty. This uncertainty rocks our nerves and raises or strengthens doubts about a positive future; it destroys hope. Some even have to fear for their very existence. This uncertainty stems from the fact that, at this moment, nobody can really make fully reliable statements about the duration of this fight against the virus. This is true for sport, science, the media, politics, and all of society. Therefore also the IOC can unfortunately not answer all your questions. This is why we are relying on the advice of a Task Force including the World Health Organization (WHO).

As successful athletes, you know that we should never give up, even if the chance to succeed appears to be very small. Our commitment to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 is based on this experience. It is our experience as athletes that you must always be ready to adapt to new situations. For this reason we have, as indicated before, been thinking in different scenarios and are adapting them almost day by day.

On the one hand, there are significant improvements in Japan where the people are warmly welcoming the Olympic flame. This could strengthen our confidence in our Japanese hosts that we could, with certain safety restrictions, organise Olympic Games in the country whilst respecting our principle of safeguarding the health of everyone involved. On the other hand, we have seen a dramatic increase in cases and new outbreaks of the virus in different countries on different continents. This is why we have to undertake the next step in our scenarios.

I think I can feel with those among you who consider the situation to be unsatisfactory. Even though, in very different circumstances and for very different reasons, I had an experience of uncertainty as an athlete in the lead-up to the Olympic Games Moscow 1980. We were uncertain whether the Games would take place and whether we would be allowed to participate. Quite frankly, I would have preferred it if the decision-makers then would have taken more time to decide on a more sound basis of information.

Our basis of information today is that a final decision about the date of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 now would still be premature.

So, like you, we are in a dilemma: Cancellation of the Olympic Games would destroy the Olympic dream of 11,000 athletes from all 206 National Olympic Committees, from the IOC Refugee Olympic Team, most likely for the Paralympic athletes, and for all the people who are supporting you as coaches, doctors, officials, training partners, friends, and family.  Cancellation would not solve any problem and would help nobody. Therefore it is not on our agenda.

A decision about a postponement today could not determine a new date for the Olympic Games because of the uncertain developments in both directions: an improvement, as we are seeing in a number of countries thanks to the severe measures being taken or a deteriorating situation in other countries.

Contrary to other sports events, to postpone the Olympic Games is an extremely complex challenge. Just to give you some examples:

A number of critical venues needed for the Games could potentially not be available anymore. The situations with millions of nights already booked in hotels is extremely difficult to handle, and the international sports calendar for at least 33 Olympic sports would have to be adapted. These are just a few of many, many more challenges.

Therefore, further the study of different scenarios, it would need the full commitment and cooperation of the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee and the Japanese authorities, and of all the International Federations (IFs) and National Olympic Committees (NOCs) and all stakeholders of the Olympic Games. It is in light of the worldwide deteriorating situation, and in the spirit of our shared commitment to the Olympic Games, that the IOC Executive Board has today initiated the next step in our scenarios.

Together with all the stakeholders, we have started detailed discussions today to complete our assessment of the rapid development of the worldwide health situation and its impact on the Olympic Games, including a scenario of postponement. We are working very hard, and we are confident that we will have finalised these discussions within the next four weeks.

I know that this unprecedented situation leaves many of your questions open. I also know that this rational approach may not be in line with the emotions many of you have to go through. Therefore, as we try to address your situation and the questions you may have about your training, your qualification systems and your participation in the Games, we encourage you to keep an eye out for updates on Athlete365, but also to stay in close contact with your NOCs and National Federations.

I wish, and we all are working for this, that the hope of so many athletes, NOCs and IFs from all five continents have expressed will be fulfilled: that at the end of this dark tunnel we are all going through together, not knowing how long it is, the Olympic flame will be a light at the end of this tunnel.

As a fellow Olympian, I hope that you can understand our challenge, and accept and support our principles which are to safeguard your, your families’ and everyone’s health, and to keep your Olympic dream alive.

Wishing you, your families and your friends first of all good health and all the best, I remain, with kind regards,

(Signed) Thomas Bach

IOC Complete Press Release

To safeguard the health of all involved and to contribute to the containment of COVID-19, the Executive Board (EB) of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) today announced that the IOC will step up its scenario-planning for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

These scenarios relate to modifying existing operational plans for the Games to go ahead on 24 July 2020, and also for changes to the start date of the Games. This step will allow better visibility of the rapidly changing development of the health situation around the world and in Japan. It will serve as the basis for the best decision in the interest of the athletes and everyone else involved. 

On the one hand, there are significant improvements in Japan where the people are warmly welcoming the Olympic flame. This could strengthen the IOC’s confidence in the Japanese hosts that the IOC could, with certain safety restrictions, organise Olympic Games in the country whilst respecting its principle of safeguarding the health of everyone involved. 

On the other hand, there is a dramatic increase in cases and new outbreaks of COVID-19 in different countries on different continents. This led the EB to the conclusion that the IOC needs to take the next step in its scenario-planning. 

A number of critical venues needed for the Games could potentially not be available anymore. The situations with millions of nights already booked in hotels is extremely difficult to handle, and the international sports calendar for at least 33 Olympic sports would have to be adapted. These are just a few of many, many more challenges.

Therefore, further to the study of different scenarios, it would need the full commitment and cooperation of the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee and the Japanese authorities, and of all the International Federations (IFs) and National Olympic Committees (NOCs). It would also require commitment from, and collaboration with, the Rights-Holding Broadcasters (RHBs) and our TOP Partner sponsors, as part of their continued and valued support to the Olympic Movement, as well as cooperation from all the Games’ partners, suppliers and contractors. It is in this spirit of the Olympic stakeholders’ shared commitment to the Olympic Games, and in light of the worldwide deteriorating situation, that the IOC EB has today initiated the next step in the IOC’s scenario-planning. 

The IOC will, in full coordination and partnership with the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee, the Japanese authorities and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, start detailed discussions to complete its assessment of the rapid development of the worldwide health situation and its impact on the Olympic Games, including the scenario of postponement. The IOC is confident that it will have finalised these discussions within the next four weeks, and greatly appreciates the solidarity and partnership of the NOCs and IFs in supporting the athletes and adapting Games planning.

The IOC EB emphasised that a cancellation of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 would not solve any of the problems or help anybody. Therefore, cancellation is not on the agenda.

After the EB meeting, IOC President Thomas Bach today wrote to the global athlete community to provide them with an explanation of the IOC’s approach. 

In the letter, Bach stated once more that safeguarding the health of everyone involved and contributing to contain the virus is the fundamental principle, and said: “Human lives take precedence over everything, including the staging of the Games. The IOC wants to be part of the solutionTherefore we have made it our leading principle to safeguard the health of everyone involved, and to contribute to containing the virus. I wish, and we all are working for this, that the hope so many athletes, NOCs and IFs from all five continents have expressed will be fulfilled: that at the end of this dark tunnel we are all going through together, not knowing how long it is, the Olympic flame will be a light at the end of this tunnel.”

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Gator
1 year ago

A good step and helps reduce uncertainty of the athletes

Timpan
Reply to  Gator
1 year ago

How?

Because
Reply to  Timpan
1 year ago

Because now athletes know that there are essentially only two options on the table that will de decided in 4 weeks – hold the games as planned starting in July, or postponing to a later date (probably October 2020 but we won’t that for sure for 4 weeks).

Captain Ahab
1 year ago

Right now most health departments around the country are staying with the recognized chlorine levels of 1.0-3.0 and ph is 7.2 – 7.8. 3.0 and 7.4 is the most effective. However, such also requires that swimmers must not spit or excretion into the pool other precautions might be wearing goggles and not putting swimmers beside each other in every lane but skipping every other lane. With these simple precautions considered I am sure that the experts in epidemiology will be able to determine their effectiveness or make better recommendations. Perhaps that should be what determines the cancellation, postpone or not. Of course the fact Hydroxychloroquine is nearly 100% effective against the new virus should also play a factor as well… Read more »

Justin Wright
Reply to  Captain Ahab
1 year ago

No.

Ol' Longhorn
Reply to  Captain Ahab
1 year ago

Hydroxychloroquine is not 100% effective against the new virus: in fact it’s efficacy has not been established at all in any remotely rigorous manner. There’s one report from China on 100 patients, totally uncontrolled/not a clinical trial, and all it did was reduce the severity of the illness and shedding in an unreported number of them. It didn’t cure them. Another study, also uncontrolled, showed it decreased COVID-19 mRNA in sputum of a small number of COVID-19 patients: clinical symptoms were not assessed. As Dr. Fauci stated, there is no magic bullet for it. To suggest otherwise is just irresponsible.

Italian
Reply to  Captain Ahab
1 year ago

Perhaps you forget that Olympics are not just about swimming

Captain Ahab
1 year ago

Don’t cancel or postpone just organize better. Everyone takes a corona test before their race and everyone practices social distancing in the race its self. Everything just depends on better organizations.

CoachChris
Reply to  Captain Ahab
1 year ago

“Just organize better”.

The entire country of Italy is under quarantine.

We do not have the capacity to create enough test kits for the people currently exhibiting symptoms.

We do not have enough hospital beds for the people who will become critically ill from this pandemic, nor enough respirators to help them continue breathing. And your suggestion is to “just organize better”.

Wow. Just…wow.

Captain Ahab
Reply to  CoachChris
1 year ago

Calm down and do stop panicking. All they have to do is organize better. What club do you coach in panic mode?

CoachChris
Reply to  Captain Ahab
1 year ago

Stop panicking? Who’s panicking? Other than the doctors and nurses who are horribly overworked and underfunded, trying their best to stem the tide of a virus that has the potential to kill hundreds of thousands across the globe?

You seem to have literally no understanding on how this virus is spreading, how dangerous it’s long incubation period is, or how drastically it is changing the world right now. Kindly look at how the votes on your posts are going, and either educate yourself, or stop trolling.

Ol' Longhorn
Reply to  Captain Ahab
1 year ago

Are you employed by the virus? COVID-19 Hype Man?

PowerPlay
1 year ago

The 2020 Olympics will be postponed to 2021 or canceled. The IOC just doesn’t know it yet.

Awsi Dooger
Reply to  PowerPlay
1 year ago

Yes, a 4-week timetable almost guarantees postponement, given where the United States will be during the progression. 2022 makes the most sense. Then if the virus is controlled by mid 2021 you don’t regret your course. You congratulate yourself for taking the logical big picture route. The world championships can assume their typical role a year preceding the Games. I think it would be great to have both the Winter and Summer Olympics within the same calendar year again, if only briefly.

Konner Scott
1 year ago

I feel like right now, four weeks to have concrete plans is reasonable. There are an insane number of moving parts when orchestrating an Olympic Games and the fact that they’ve given a timeline for their decision is a huge step in the right direction.

Gator
Reply to  Konner Scott
1 year ago

Agree

Coach
1 year ago

I recognize this is an incredibly complex ordeal. Nothing is simple and straightforward. No matter what you decide, there will be some big time negative repercussions.

BUT

Kicking the can down the road, even 4 weeks, shouldn’t be an option. Athletes and coaches are risking their health, the health of their communities, and their careers to continue trying to train right now. Coaches, in some cases, are going against government mandates in order to sneak in training time, putting their careers at risk, to keep the Olympic dream of their athletes alive. That cannot continue for another month. That’s what you are asking them to do. You cannot expect world class athletes to sit on their hands for weeks… Read more »

Ol' Longhorn
Reply to  Coach
1 year ago

Kicking the can down the road 4 weeks will give the IOC cover for their canceling/postponing the Olympics. Because at that time, death rates will be soaring and there won’t be any pushback.

Kristiina
1 year ago

Empty stands or without public is best force by virus. Most virus import coming tourists. Most dagerous tourists living Spain,Italy,Iran USA, South Korea and China.

Kristiina
Reply to  Kristiina
1 year ago

Also must put quarantine all Olympic area and Tokyo regions between two Olympic areas and Mt. Fuji.

Vlad
Reply to  Kristiina
1 year ago

I’ll have what she’s taking

Ladyvoldisser
Reply to  Kristiina
1 year ago

Everyone has their opinion. Covid-19 also is of the opinion the Olympic Games WILL BE CANCELLED. I am right over 97.3% of the time…

Troyy
Reply to  Ladyvoldisser
1 year ago

Not cancelled, postponed.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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