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No ideal solution to staging Tokyo Olympics: IOC

International body defends itself after being criticised for putting athletes' health at risk

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) acknowledged yesterday there was no "ideal" solution to staging this summer's Tokyo Olympics as the deadly coronavirus pandemic swept the globe.

"This is an exceptional situation which requires exceptional solutions," an IOC spokesman said after criticism from top athletes that they were being forced to take health risks as the Covid-19 outbreak casts a shadow over the July 24-Aug 9 Games.

"The IOC is committed to finding a solution with the least negative impact for the athletes, while protecting the integrity of the competition and the athletes' health.

"No solution will be ideal in this situation, and this is why we are counting on the responsibility and solidarity of the athletes."

'IRRESPONSIBLE'

IOC Athletes Commission member Hayley Wickenheiser said earlier that vows to press ahead with plans for the Tokyo Games are "insensitive and irresponsible", as several athletes also expressed discontent.

Wickenheiser, a member of the Canada women's ice hockey team that won four straight Olympic golds between 2002 and 2016, made her comments on Twitter.

The 41-year-old was speaking after the IOC said there was no need for "drastic decisions" over the staging of the Tokyo Games, insisting there are still "more than four months to go".

It made the statement on Tuesday after European football body Uefa postponed the European Championship, which was due to begin on June 12, to next year.

IOC and Japanese officials have insisted they are working towards staging the Olympics as planned despite the escalating coronavirus pandemic.

But Wickenheiser pointed to the disruption the crisis had already caused to athletes preparing for the Games.

Athletes have been prevented from accessing training facilities because of virus-related lockdowns, while others have seen key competitions and qualifying events cancelled.

"I think the IOC insisting this will move ahead, with such conviction, is insensitive and irresponsible given the state of humanity," she said.

On the same day, reigning Olympic pole vault champion Katerina Stefanidi accused the IOC of putting the health of elite athletes at risk by telling them to continue training for the Games.

The 30-year-old Greek told Reuters in an exclusive interview: "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.

"We have to decide whether to risk our health and continue training in the current environment."

Her comments were echoed by Britain's heptathlon world champion Katarina Johnson-Thompson.

Returning home from a locked-down France, the 27-year-old feels under pressure to train due to the government legislation on enforcing home isolation, as tracks, gyms and public spaces are closed.

Meanwhile, Japan chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga reiterated in parliament yesterday that they are not making any preparations to postpone the Games. - REUTERS

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