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Japan begins Herculean task of shifting Olympics

Thomas Bach, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) president said that a lot of sacrifices, financial included, would need to be made while rescheduling the Games deferred this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Updated: Mar 26, 2020 09:47 IST

By B Shrikant, Hindustan Times Mumbai

The giant Olympic rings are seen in the dusk through a tree at the waterfront area at Odaiba Marine Park after postponing Games due to the outbreak of coronavirus disease in Tokyo, Japan on March 25, 2020. (Reuters)

Thomas Bach, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) president, said fresh dates for the 2021 Olympics will be decided by a task force comprising the IOC’s Coordination Commission and the organising committee of the Games in Tokyo.

“This needs consultation with the 33 international federations. We will have telephone conference by tomorrow (Thursday). We, of course, will have to take into account the sports calendar around the Olympic Games and many, many other issues,” said Bach on Wednesday at a teleconference with 400 journalists from around the world.

“We should come to a solution as soon as possible but…we have to take the inputs of all stakeholders into account—the National Olympic Committees (NOCs), the athletes, the partner (sponsors) and, of course, the organising committee, which is a key to this (process).”

A former Olympic fencer, Bach said that a lot of sacrifices, financial included, would need to be made while rescheduling the Games deferred this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“A one-year postponement might impact the career, qualification and plans of some athletes, which would be addressed in the coming months and all necessary support would also be extended by us,” said Indian Olympic Association secretary Rajeev Mehta in New Delhi.

While the IOC’s task force, ‘Here We Go’, gets to work, questions about the qualification process and more continue to swirl.

Will they, won’t they?

Will the Badminton World Federation (BWF) freeze rankings as B Sai Praneeth has already asked for because players are losing points in tournaments cancelled due to the pandemic?

What happens to doubles world No 9 Sania Mirza whose protected ranking ends on January 2021 but who would have been eligible for the Games this year? Will it be feasible to allow an athlete who qualified in May-June 2019 or at last year’s athletics world championships to participate nearly two years later?

Will players who are under-23 this year be eligible for the football competition even if they cross the age threshold? Will wrestler Narsingh Yadav be eligible for the qualifiers once his four-year doping ban ends?

“We have no clarity on whether our qualification quota will be continued next year too,” said wrestler Deepak Punia who has secured a berth in the 86kg freestyle competition.

“There are a lot of questions—how are they going to go with the points system, what will be the cut-off date for the world rankings, when will they hold the remaining qualifiers; will they redo the qualifiers that have already finished or just continue with the ones that are remaining,” said G Sathiyan who at world No 31 is India’s highest-ranked table tennis player.

“As an athlete it is a bit hard as I will have to start the entire process again. No one is sure what will happen to people who have already qualified,” said table tennis player Achanta Sharath Kamal who is also eligible for a men’s singles berth.

Amid the uncertainty, India’s weightlifting coach Vijay Sharma said training would continue in Patiala for eight India lifters including medal hopeful Mirabai Chanu even as he recalibrates plans.

Looking at the bright side was boxer Amit Panghal.

“It has given me more time to work harder and maintain my place at the top of world boxing,” he said.

The delay could also give athlete Hima Das and gymnast Dipa Karmakar a shot at the Games they would have missed had it been on schedule.

“The best should represent India so it is possible we will have a better team in 2021. I know this means some athletes could have to prove themselves again but if they are really good—and only the really good go to the Olympics—I am confident they will. So, while I understand the disappointment of those who have already made it and couldn’t wait for Tokyo, I also realise that there could be an opportunity for those who could not,” said Joydeep Karmakar who was fourth in 50m prone rifle in 2012 London Olympics.


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