The IOC is asking for four more weeks to decide whether or not to postpone the Games.
Lillian Suwanrumpha/AFP
Pound delivers message
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin Henson (The Philippine Star) - March 25, 2020 - 12:00am

It took outspoken IOC member Dick Pound to announce that the Tokyo Olympics will be postponed although there remains no official confirmation from the Lausanne-based organization whose president Thomas Bach has held back from declaring the inevitable until things are sorted out in rescheduling the Summer Games.

When Bach’s announcement finally comes, there will be little significance in his pronouncement. Australia, Canada and many more countries have decided not to send athletes to Tokyo if the games are held as scheduled on July 24-Aug. 9. Both the US athletics and swimming NSAs have called for a postponement but in deference to Bach, the US Olympic Committee wouldn’t make a stand. Athletics and swimming are compulsory Olympic sports and since the US traditionally is represented by the largest contingent in the Summer Games, their call can’t be ignored.

The IOC is asking for four more weeks to decide whether or not to postpone the Games. Obviously, cancellation is not an option. A delay up to the end of the year or next year is imminent. Postponing the Games to 2022 is untenable because that’s the year when the Winter Olympics, Youth Olympics, Asian Games and World Cup of football will be held. How to adjust the world-wide sports schedule is clearly what’s occupying Bach’s mind at the moment. He’s not likely to announce a postponement without offering a new schedule.

Perhaps, Bach is careful not to preempt advice from the Tokyo organizers to postpone the Games since after all, the Japanese invested heavily in the Olympics, more than the IOC. Millions of tickets have been sold, thousands of hotel bookings have been made, flight arrangements have been confirmed. Imagine the chaos in communicating with customers for cancellations or rebookings. For a while, Japanese officials insisted the Games would go on as scheduled despite the early coronavirus outbreak. But lately, Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe has hinted of a postponement. “If I’m asked whether we can hold the Olympics at this point in time, I would have to say that the world is not in such a condition,” said Abe.

With the coronavirus pandemic still not under control, how can anyone realistically announce a new schedule? How sure can anyone be that by September or October, the world will be clear of the virus and the Tokyo Olympics can proceed? Bach appears to be missing out on an opportunity to rally the sporting world behind the war against the virus by sitting on the announcement of a postponement. There’s no pressure for Bach to announce a reschedule because everything is in a state of flux anyway. But there is pressure for Bach to announce a postponement now.

Pound, author of the book “Inside the Olympics – A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Politics, the Scandals and the Glory of the Games,” said the IOC has virtually decided to postpone the Games but the reset is undetermined. “The postponement has been decided,” he said. “The parameters going forward have not been determined. It will come in stages. We will postpone this and begin to deal with all the ramifications of moving this, which are immense.”

Pound isn’t known to mince words nor pull his punches. He’s been reprimanded by the IOC for making strongly-worded statements accusing Russian athletes and Tour de France cyclists of doping. Pound, 78, is a lawyer and not a politician. He was formerly the Canadian Olympic Committee president and IOC vice president. An advocate of clean sports, he is the founding chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency. In 1960, he competed for Canada as a swimmer in the Rome Olympics, finishing fourth in the 400-meter medley relay and sixth in the 100-meter freestyle. In 2001, Pound finished third in the voting for IOC president behind Dr. Jacques Rogge and Kim Un-Young.

In his book, Pound took a swipe at AIBA and it’s no coincidence that in the Tokyo Games, AIBA has been banned by the IOC from supervising boxing. “Knockouts are rare in Olympic boxing,” he said. “Bouts are only three rounds. That’s why a pre-arranged result could be achieved by collusion among the judges. Real change will require a thorough commitment from the entire federation and its leadership to eradicate the corruption and to use officials that are capable and impartial. The sport has shown its judges to be less concerned with fairness than they are with their own interests.” It appears that in this crisis, Pound’s relevance is more compelling than Bach’s.

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