On Tuesday, March 17, 2020, the Greek star pole-vaulter who reigned in the previous Olympic, Katerina Stefanidi told Reuters that the guideline of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for players to continue practices has put their health conditions at risk amid the fear of Coronavirus spreading. She also demanded the IOC’s framework of “Plan-B” for the Tokyo 2020 Games if there was a chance for not canceling or postponing the events.
In an exclusive interview on Tuesday, the Greek star stated, “There is no postponement, no cancellation. But it (the IOC) is putting us at risk.” Considering the widespread virus infection and further escalation of the virus spread, Stefanidi added, “We all want Tokyo to happen but what is the Plan B if it does not happen? Knowing about a possible option has a major effect on my training because I may be taking risks now that I would not take if I knew there was also the possibility of a Plan B.”
The statement of Stefanidi was backed by Britain’s heptathlon world champion, Katarina Johnson-Thompson, who also claimed that she had to work under pressure to train despite the nationwide lockdown.
She wrote on Twitter, “The IOC advice ‘encourages athletes to continue to prepare for the Olympic Games as best they can’ with the Olympics only four months away, but the governing legislation is enforcing isolation at home with tracks, gyms and public spaces closed.”
The IOC was not available for a comment on the matter and was reported to call a meeting with Japan’s National Olympic Committees on Wednesday. Earlier, the International committee reassured to athletes that they remained committed to holding the Games, which was scheduled to play from July 24 to August 9, 2020, in Japan.
The committee said earlier, “The IOC remains fully committed to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, and with more than four months to go before the Games there is no need for any drastic decisions at this stage.”
Health Risks Concerns
The widespread virus outbreak, which has so far claimed more than 7,500 lives with the rapid rise of the infected cases to nearly 200,000 people worldwide, has forced to cancel a series of international sports events across the globe.
Citing the committee’s stand as unimpressed, Stefanidi, who is a member of World Athletics athletes’ commission, said, “From January until now the situation has deteriorated dramatically and in the same period the IOC has repeated the same things.” Meanwhile, Greece has reported 387 cases of COVID-19, including five deaths and the government has ordered a lockdown of all sports facilities for a week.
She argued, “The IOC put us in a difficult position. How can we train in these conditions and these health risks… The stadiums have been closed for a week. Tomorrow we may get a special permit to get in and train. But how can you train there, touching the same equipment and surfaces? And what about team sports, or gymnastics, or swimming.”
She further insisted, “I would like to see that there is a concern for the risk to our health. It is good to say that in four months it will all be fine. But what about now? I want to see what they do about now. I want to hear about Plan B.”
Considering the different levels of pieces of training, Stefanidi said there was a wide unfair advantage among players since some countries had shut all facilities and other countries such as the US or Sweden were still opened. She reminded, “My rival Sandi Morris, for example, has been training the past week because her facility is still open.”
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