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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, March 23, 2020

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Primum non nocere [Latin for "First, do no harm"] - My advice to the International Olympic Committee.

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Dear IOC: Please announce a postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics now

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has been dithering and postponing a decision on whether or not to cancel or postpone the Tokyo Olympics. The games are scheduled to run from July 24 to August 9. If anyone on the IOC even remotely thinks the Coronavirus pandemic will be over by then, that person should put down his marijuana cigarettes and come down to Earth.

And make no mistake, in the end, the games will be postponed.

Every day this decision is put off endangers the health and lives of athletes and support staff all over the world. Already Canada has had the good sense to announce that it will not be sending a team to the Tokyo games.

Washington Post sports columnist Sally Jenkins wrote this superb and impassioned column on the subject:

Call the Olympics off. It’s time. The Tokyo Games cannot possibly go forward without jeopardizing people all around the world, and every day that International Olympic Committee officials hesitate, they contribute to the crisis and the imminent collapse of medical systems. A hard shutdown is the responsible thing to do, and anything less is negligent, maybe even lethally so.

The models and projections are clear, and the reality on the ground is brutal, from Italy to Iran to Seattle to New York. An emergency room doctor in a large hospital, an old friend, tells me that without widespread, immediate and dramatic stay-at-home measures, the coronavirus could make the 1918 flu pandemic “look like a party.” She hasn’t seen her daughter in a week or her elderly father in two, and every night as she disinfects herself, she worries about colleagues in harder-hit regions who are trying to bleach and reuse protective gear meant for single use, their masks and gowns and goggles, because their supplies are already running out.

I tell her that Thomas Bach, the IOC president, insists the Olympics should go forward because they are a “beacon of hope.” She says: “That’s beyond nonsense. The IOC should be sending a warning signal, not a beacon.”

Bach and other officials continue to intone that it’s too early to cancel or postpone because everything might be fine by July. U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee chair Susanne Lyons said in a teleconference Friday: “We don’t have to make a decision. Our Games are not next week or two weeks from now. They’re four months from now. And I think a lot may change in that time period.”

Wrong. They do need to make a decision — and make it now. The entire world is behind on this disease, lagging. Have they not been listening to Anthony S. Fauci? We don’t have time. We don’t have time for the IOC’s hemming platitudes and the USOPC’s vague blather.

Do the basic math. Things are accelerating. Cases in New York are doubling overnight. There were more than 275,000 cases worldwide as of Saturday, and while it took three months to count the first 100,000 infections, it took just 12 days to reach the 200,000 mark. Hong Kong has reported its single biggest jump in cases to date, apparently because people are still traveling. Get it? The disease is speeding up because we aren’t shutting down fast enough.

You can read the entire piece here.

VeloNews' Andrew Hood wrote this excellent March 22 update on where things currently stand.

And though I profoundly disagree, in fairness, here is the IOC's March 22 post on the subject:


These scenarios relate to modifying existing operational plans for the Games to go ahead on 24 July 2020, and also for changes to the start date of the Games. This step will allow better visibility of the rapidly changing development of the health situation around the world and in Japan. It will serve as the basis for the best decision in the interest of the athletes and everyone else involved.

On the one hand, there are significant improvements in Japan where the people are warmly welcoming the Olympic flame. This could strengthen the IOC’s confidence in the Japanese hosts that the IOC could, with certain safety restrictions, organise Olympic Games in the country whilst respecting its principle of safeguarding the health of everyone involved.

On the other hand, there is a dramatic increase in cases and new outbreaks of COVID-19 in different countries on different continents. This led the EB to the conclusion that the IOC needs to take the next step in its scenario-planning.

A number of critical venues needed for the Games could potentially not be available anymore. The situations with millions of nights already booked in hotels is extremely difficult to handle, and the international sports calendar for at least 33 Olympic sports would have to be adapted. These are just a few of many, many more challenges.

Therefore, further to the study of different scenarios, it would need the full commitment and cooperation of the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee and the Japanese authorities, and of all the International Federations (IFs) and National Olympic Committees (NOCs). It would also require commitment from, and collaboration with, the Rights-Holding Broadcasters (RHBs) and our TOP Partner sponsors, as part of their continued and valued support to the Olympic Movement, as well as cooperation from all the Games’ partners, suppliers and contractors. It is in this spirit of the Olympic stakeholders’ shared commitment to the Olympic Games, and in light of the worldwide deteriorating situation, that the IOC EB has today initiated the next step in the IOC’s scenario-planning.

The IOC will, in full coordination and partnership with the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee, the Japanese authorities and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, start detailed discussions to complete its assessment of the rapid development of the worldwide health situation and its impact on the Olympic Games, including the scenario of postponement. The IOC is confident that it will have finalised these discussions within the next four weeks, and greatly appreciates the solidarity and partnership of the NOCs and IFs in supporting the athletes and adapting Games planning.

The IOC EB emphasised that a cancellation of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 would not solve any of the problems or help anybody. Therefore, cancellation is not on the agenda.

After the EB meeting, IOC President Thomas Bach today wrote to the global athlete community to provide them with an explanation of the IOC’s approach.

In the letter, Bach stated once more that safeguarding the health of everyone involved and contributing to contain the virus is the fundamental principle, and said: “Human lives take precedence over everything, including the staging of the Games. The IOC wants to be part of the solution. Therefore we have made it our leading principle to safeguard the health of everyone involved, and to contribute to containing the virus. I wish, and we all are working for this, that the hope so many athletes, NOCs and IFs from all five continents have expressed will be fulfilled: that at the end of this dark tunnel we are all going through together, not knowing how long it is, the Olympic flame will be a light at the end of this tunnel.”

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