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Great Britain to follow Canada and pull out if Olympic Games go ahead: chief

 

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Under pressure: the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo may sit empty this summer

Under pressure: the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo may sit empty this summer

AFP via Getty Images

Under pressure: the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo may sit empty this summer

Great Britain and Northern Ireland are unlikely to send a team to the Tokyo Olympics this summer, according to the chair of the British Olympic Association.

Hugh Robertson has welcomed the International Olympic Committee's announcement that they are examining contingency scenarios, including postponement.

However, he said that, due to the widespread closure of training facilities and the likelihood that the impact of coronavirus in Britain will worsen over the coming weeks, there was almost certainly no way Team GB could compete, even if the Games, which are due to start on July 24, were given the green light.

"I think it is very simple. If the virus continues as predicted by the government, I don't think there is any way we can send a team," he stated yesterday.

"And I base that on two things. Firstly, I don't see any way that the athletes and Team GB could be ready by then.

"Elite training facilities are perfectly understandably and quite correctly closed around the country, so there is no way they could undertake the preparation they need to get ready.

"Second, there is the appropriateness of holding an Olympic Games at a time like this.

"We are actually in a process where we are talking to all our sports. We will complete that over the next couple of days. At the end of that we have already said to the IOC that we think their four-week pause is absolutely the right thing to do.

"We can't see any way that this can go ahead as things are constituted at the moment and I expect we will be joining Canada and Australia shortly."

The Canadian Olympic and Paralympic committees have already announced they will not compete in Tokyo this summer, while the Australians have told their athletes to prepare for a postponement to summer 2021.

The BOA, the British Paralympic Association and funding body UK Sport will hold a conference call with the chief executives and performance directors of the summer Olympic and Paralympic sports this afternoon to discuss the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak.

There is growing anticipation they will make a collective call for the Games to be postponed and to advise athletes to prepare on that basis.

Boris Johnson's official spokesperson has urged the IOC to make a "definitive decision".

The Prime Minister's spokesperson said: "Athletes are facing significant uncertainty in the current environment.

"Their health and safety, alongside that of sports fans and officials due to work at the Games, must be paramount.

"We want the International Olympic Committee to make a definitive decision soon to bring clarity to all of those involved.

"The Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston set out yesterday that the IOC should be seriously considering postponing the Games."

A statement from the Tokyo 2020 organisers yesterday afternoon reiterated that discussions would be finalised in the next four weeks, adding: "Our thoughts are with all those affected by this crisis, and we will continue to prioritise the safety of athletes, spectators and all other Games participants."

Games chief Yoshiro Mori said they would not be cancelled, but "postponement" is one of a number of scenarios being considered by organisers.

Mr Mori said Japan was "not considering cancelling the Olympics at all", saying plans for the start of the Olympic torch relay on Thursday would go ahead.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, speaking to parliament yesterday, said postponing the Olympics was an option if holding them in their "complete form" became impossible.

He said: "If that becomes difficult, we may have no option but to consider postponing the Games, given the Olympic principle of putting the health of athletes first."

Meanwhile, a leading figure on the BOA's athletes' commission has described IOC president Thomas Bach as arrogant and stubborn.

Callum Skinner, a 2016 Olympic cycling champion, was scathing in a social media post.

"IOC president Thomas Bach's stubbornness and arrogance has spectacularly failed in this instance," he wrote.

Belfast Telegraph