The 2020 Olympic Games are scheduled to be held in Tokyo between July 24 and August 9, but the organizers have remained stedfast in moving on with holding the games despite the worldwide struggle to contain COVID-19.
In a letter addressed to International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach on Friday, the NIF made its position clear, asking the IOC to deliver a “insight on the central milestones” involved in the process of deciding whether the games will be held as planned, postponed or canceled.
“Our clear recommendation is that the Olympic Games in Tokyo shall not take place before the COVID-19 situation is under firm control on a global scale,” the letter reads, according to the Associated Press.
“We understand and respect that the situation is indeed very complicated for the Japanese health authorities, the OCOG and the IOC. We trust that the advices from the Tokyo 2020 Task Force are of the highest medical standard and has the safety of the athletes as the overall priority.”
The International Olympic Committee and Tokyo’s organizing committee have repeatedly dismissed suggestions that the Olympics could be postponed or canceled, but calls are growing louder for both bodies to relax their stances.
Earlier this week, Lord Sebastian Coe, the president of the World Athletics federation (IAAF), has admitted the dates for the Tokyo Olympics could “be eased” should organizers have no other option.
“Of course, if you had to ease that date, then you would have to ease it,” Coe told BBC Radio 4 on Thursday, when asked whether he thought the Games could be staged in September or October.
While he stopped short of suggesting the Olympics should be delayed or canceled, Coe admitted events were “changing by the hour” and all options were on the table.
“Anything is possible at the moment,” he continued.
“Certainly we [and the] other federations, nobody is saying we will be going to the Games come what may. … But it isn’t a decision that has to be made at this moment.”
The letter came on the same day as USA Swimming formally asked for the Olympic and Paralympic Games to be postponed.
“Everyone has experienced unimaginable disruptions, mere months before the Olympic Games, which calls into question the authenticity of a level playing field for all,” Tim Hinchey III, the CEO of USA Swimming, wrote in a letter to Sarah Hirshland, the CEO of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee.
“There are no perfect answers, and this will not be easy; however, it is a solution that provides a concrete path forward and allows all athletes to prepare for a safe and successful Olympic Games in 2021. … It is with the burden of these serious concerns that we respectfully request that the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee advocate for the postponement of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 by one year.”
With the exception of the two world wars, the Olympics have never been canceled since they began in their modern guise in 1896.
However, the world of sports has ground to a halt as coronavirus developed into a global pandemic
The NBA and all major European soccer leagues have called off their seasons, while the MLB has postponed the start of its campaign and the soccer European Championships scheduled for this summer have been postponed to next year.
While the IOC and Tokyo 2020 organizers acknowledged “no solution will be ideal” in preparing for the games, they encouraged athletes to prepare as normal, despite coming under significant criticism from an increasing number of athletes.
“We have never discussed canceling the Games,” the organizing committee told Newsweek on Wednesday. “Preparations for the Games are continuing as planned. Countermeasures against infectious diseases constitute an important part of our plans to host a safe and secure Games. […] We have created a framework for periodic updates between Tokyo 2020 and the IOC and will continue to stay in close collaboration.”
As of Saturday morning, more than 11,000 people have died since the outbreak of coronavirus began in Wuhan, a city located in China’s central Hubei province, late last year.
There are over 275,000 cases globally, with 88,000 recovered, according to Johns Hopkins University, which has been tracking the outbreak using combined data sources.