U.S. Olympic Officials Want The IOC To Delay Tokyo Games
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
One of the last remaining questions in the sports world is whether the Summer Olympics in Tokyo will be postponed. We got a hint as to what direction that decision might be going yesterday. The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee called on the organizers to delay the Olympics because of the pandemic.
NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman is on the line. Tom, good morning.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Hi, Steve.
INSKEEP: Why did U.S. Olympic officials decide this now?
GOLDMAN: Good question. You know, Friday, Olympic officials were sticking with the International Olympic Committee, which was saying it was premature to talk about postponement. But the next day, those officials sent out a survey about COVID-19 to nearly 4,000 athletes who'd been prepping for this summer's Olympics and Paralympics. Nearly 1,800 answered the survey. And the USOPC, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, says that data prompted the change in their thinking.
In the USOPC's words, it's more clear than ever that the path toward postponement is the most promising. Now, some of the survey stats that stand out - nearly 65% of the athletes said their training has been severely impacted or they can't train at all, you know, with gyms closing, training centers closing, orders to stay at home restricting their movements. And 68% said they don't think there will be fair competition if the games take place as scheduled.
INSKEEP: So when the United States says we want to delay the Olympics, what kind of pressure does that put on the International Olympic Committee that actually runs the event?
GOLDMAN: A lot. Pressure has been building. You've got Canada and Australia already saying their Olympic teams won't be in Tokyo. You've got an increasing number of athletes and sports governing bodies calling for postponement. But the U.S. announcement late yesterday really was the biggest. The U.S. is the power player at the summer games. It sends the most athletes. It often wins the medal count. You've got NBC, the main broadcaster of the games, and major U.S. sponsors pouring vast sums into the games. So U.S. has a lot of clout.
INSKEEP: Still, as you mentioned, there's been a lot of pressure building for a while, and the International Olympic Committee has not acted yet.
GOLDMAN: It certainly hasn't. You know, critics will say that's part of an overdeveloped sense of self-importance on the part of the IOC. It loves to go by the mantra, the Olympics must go on. And you know, we've seen in history that happen in the face of other catastrophes, like the Munich terrorist attack in 1972. The games went on despite a lot of well-deserved criticism.
With this situation - with the pandemic, what the IOC has said is those other events and organizations that have shut down were reacting in real time to the outbreak. The IOC has said, well, we've had time to decide. You know, in fact, the games are scheduled to start exactly four months from today. But it's becoming much clearer to the IOC this may not work with COVID-19 cases continuing to climb.
And I should add, it was significant this past Sunday when the IOC said for the first time publicly, postponement is one of the scenarios it's considering and that the committee expects to make a decision in the next four weeks.
INSKEEP: How big a deal is it to delay the biggest sports competition in the world?
GOLDMAN: Real big deal. It's never happened before, although there have been three cancellations because of the world wars. But you know, Steve, there's so many moving and interconnected parts in a modern-day Olympics. If it were postponed to next year at the same time, late July to early August - that's the most likely postponement scenario being floated - you've got to make sure you've got the venues still, the hotel rooms for all the visitors, the Olympic Village that's supposed to house thousands. And what does a year delay do for the athletes? Will some who could have won medals this year still be at the top of their sports in a year's time?
INSKEEP: Tom, thanks for the update.
GOLDMAN: You're welcome.
INSKEEP: NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman.
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