Thomas Bach was accused of being “tone deaf” by a four-time Olympic champion, over his attitude towards Tokyo 2020 and coronavirus.
Olympics chief Thomas Bach was urged to call off Tokyo 2020 as his response to the global coronavirus crisis was described as “tone deaf”.
British Olympic great Matthew Pinsent, a four-time rowing gold medallist from the 1992 Barcelona Games to Athens in 2004, said Bach had misjudged the reality of the situation.
The International Olympic Committee, on whose athletes’ commission Pinsent once sat, is pushing ahead with plans to stage the Games in Japan on its original schedule – from July 24 to August 9.
However, there is a growing perception outside IOC circles that it is unrealistic to expect the world’s athletes to converge on Japan in a matter of months, when large parts of the world are presently in lockdown.
Sport is on hold, with barely any events taking place as large parts of the global population self-isolate to protect themselves and others from the virus that by Wednesday had killed almost 9,000 people and infected nearly 220,000.
In a call with 220 athlete representatives from across the world on Wednesday, Bach said there were “very constructive” talks and revealed many questions were raised about the qualifying system, given scheduled competitions are being cancelled for the sake of public health.
“We had a great call with 220 athlete representatives from all around the world. It was very constructive and gave us a lot of insight. First priority is safeguarding the health of the athletes and contributing to the containment of the virus.” – IOC President Thomas Bach pic.twitter.com/X1nOIvz5FB
— IOC MEDIA (@iocmedia) March 18, 2020
He wrote on Twitter: “I’m sorry Mr Bach but this is tone deaf.
“The instinct to keep safe [not to mention obey govt instructions to lock down] is not compatible with athlete training, travel and focus that a looming Olympics demands of athletes, spectators organisers etc. Keep them safe. Call it off.
“Organised sport has essentially ended in some European and Asian countries. There are bigger things than an Olympics and the health and welfare of the Olympic family is one.
“Call 2020 off. Decide to reinstate in 21,22 or whenever but that can come later.”
Responding to another Twitter user’s suggestion there was no need to rush a decision, Pinsent said: “You are being unfair to athletes if you are saying – ‘train on through this, we need more time to decide’.”