Sebastian Coe has insisted the postponement of this summer’s Olympics was necessary in order to safeguard the psychological wellbeing of athletes as many, if not all, were in “mental turmoil” not knowing if the Tokyo Games were to proceed as scheduled or not.
It was announced last Tuesday that the Olympics had been postponed until 2021 in response to the coronavirus pandemic and following talks between Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, and the International Olympic Committee president, Thomas Bach. As recently as mid-March, Lord Coe, the president of World Athletics, had been circumspect on the issue of Olympic scheduling issues, insisting “anything is possible” and emphasising the difficulties of moving the Games to 2021. But the four-time Olympic gold medalist now concedes events necessitated action.
“We’re no different from everyone else out there but I think we just concluded that sport, on this occasion, had to take a back seat,” Coe told Talksport. “We didn’t want to have the athletes in a position where they were countering government advice, maybe even breaking the law. And of course in the back of their minds was always that concern, it wasn’t just their own training programme, but that they ran the risk of effectively infecting themselves, their families, their kids, grandparents or parents, and we just wanted to take them out of that mental turmoil as quickly as we possibly could.”
Bach has setup an IOC taskforce called Here We Go whose brief is to work with 33 international sports federations about setting new dates for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. Among the considerations is staging the Games in the spring of next year. “The agreement is that we want to organise these Games at the latest in the summer 2021,” Bach said. “This is not restricted just to the summer months. All the options are on the table including the summer 2021.”
Meanwhile, the new head of UK Athletics has vowed to restore belief in an organisation which has been mired in controversy. Joanna Coates, who was appointed as chief executive in late 2019, is well aware of the negative focus triggered by the results of its independent review into the handling of Mo Farah’s former coach Alberto Salazar. Neil Black, UKA’s performance director, became the latest senior figure to leave his role before another review was launched, this time by UK Sport.
“The board has given me the remit to make changes to ensure this organisation gets back to where it should be,” Coates told the Sunday Telegraph. “There will be major change in the organisation, and that doesn’t just mean people. That means policy, procedures, how we liaise with other organisations.”
“I do not want medals at all costs. I hope that Dina [Asher-Smith] wins. I believe she will and we want her to. But it’s about her story, her journey in athletics and what athletics can bring to anybody that participates. That’s what it should be about.”