Italian Swimming Federation president Paolo Barelli has weighed in on the novel coronavirus outbreak and how it’s effect on athlete’s ability to train should make it an easy decision for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to cancel or postpone this summer’s Olympic Games.
“If there is no positive turnaround in the coronavirus emergency by mid-April, it is ridiculous to talk about the Olympics, especially for a matter of equal opportunity for athletes,” said Barelli, translated from his native Italian. “For example, we have many guys who are not training because the pools are closed.”
On Tuesday the IOC issued a press release indicating that it remains “fully committed” to running the 2020 Games as scheduled. Barelli thinks the organization is not looking at the full scope of everything and believes it’s only fair to the athletes to give them a reasonable amount of time to train properly before the Olympics get underway.
“The IOC spoke of a decision in early June but it is too late,” he said. “I guess we did it because they have billionaire contracts with TV and an agreement with the Japanese government, but the Games are made by athletes, not managers, and it would be unfair not to put everyone in a position to compete on an equal footing.
“I have heard some of our kids and their coaches and they are all worried. Those who cannot train are also worried by the risk of seeing years of work thrown away.”
The two-time Italian Olympian also stressed how few pools there are open in Italy, and how tough it’s been to get the top athlete’s access.
“We have water polo boys practically all stationary, the two federal swimming pools of Ostia are open, where, among others, (Gregorio) Paltrinieri and (Gabriele) Detti are training, and Verona, where (Federica) Pellegrini is located,” he said. “There is a swimming pool open in Turin, that of via Mecenate in Milan and another in Imola. Not all the guys are training their best, those who have pools closed do what they can at home.”
The 65-year-old also added that the Italian athletes are healthy and under close medical supervision.