AT A GLANCE / MAY 2020

Illustration: Shyam G Menon

Tokyo Games may have to be cancelled if it can’t be held next summer

President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Thomas Bach has indicated that the rescheduled 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games may have to be cancelled if the new dates of next summer cannot be met owing to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking on the situation, he told BBC Sport that neither can the Games organizers keep their staff permanently employed nor can athletes remain in uncertainty.

According to the report dated May 20, 2020, available on the BBC website, Bach also said that the event would be focused on essentials and while holding it behind closed doors isn’t his preference, he requires more time to consider the option.

Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe has said that staging the rescheduled Games would be difficult if the country does not contain the virus in time. Top medical officials in Japan have also pointed to the relevance of a vaccine in this regard. BBC said that when asked of this angle, Bach responded the IOC was counting on advice from the World Health Organization (WHO).

Recent news reports have pointed out that while there are several vaccine candidates in various stages of study, not only will they take between 12-18 months to be properly approved but top scientists have also cautioned, a successful vaccine may not emerge anytime soon.

The 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games was originally slated for July 24-August 9, 2020. It was rescheduled to July 23-August 8, 2021 (retaining 2020 in the event name) following the outbreak of COVID-19 and its spread worldwide.

Sports Ministry approves resumption of training at its sports complexes and stadiums

The Sports Ministry has given its go ahead to the resumption of training at its complexes and stadiums after the government permitted their reopening in the fourth phase of the lockdown caused by COVID-19, Press Trust of India (PTI) reported, May 15, 2020.

According to the report published in national media, India’s sports minister Kiren Rijiju said activities will be conducted in sports complexes and stadiums strictly in accordance with guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). “ I’m happy to inform sportspersons and all concerned that sports activities will be conducted in sports complexes and stadia strictly in accordance with MHA guidelines and that of the States in which they are situated,” Rijiju tweeted. The minister however reminded that the use of gyms and swimming pools are still prohibited.

2020 Comrades Marathon cancelled

The 2020 Comrades Marathon, which was postponed earlier due to concerns over COVID-19, has now been officially cancelled.

An official statement available on the website of the event said, “ Following long discussion with the Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) Board and KwaZulu-Natal Athletics (KZNA), Athletics South Africa has announced the cancellation of the 2020 Comrades Marathon.’’

It quoted CMA Chairperson Cheryl Winn as saying, “ It is with profound sadness and regret that the CMA Board, in conjunction with ASA and KZNA, had to make this decision. We do so with the knowledge that it will come as a great disappointment to thousands of Comrades runners, who together with us at CMA, have been holding out hope that the race would somehow proceed.

“ We had hoped to postpone The Ultimate Human Race to a date not later than end of September (owing to climatic conditions), but alas with the Covid-19 pandemic showing no signs of abating and anticipated to peak in the coming months, there is no telling what is yet to come. As CMA, it is incumbent upon us to prioritise the health, safety and well-being of our athletes, volunteers and stakeholders and therefore lamentably we will not be staging this year’s edition of the country’s leading road running event.”

According to the statement, exactly 80 years ago, Comrades Marathon organizers had faced a similar dilemma in deciding whether to stage the 20th Comrades Marathon some eight months into the conflagration of World War II.  At the last moment it was decided to go ahead with just 23 starters, following the withdrawal of many runners who had been mobilized for the war effort.  Only ten runners completed the 1940 Comrades Marathon.  The following year the race was cancelled and remained so for the duration of the war (1941 – 1945), as the organizers, runners and supporters stood in solidarity with all those who suffered the horrors and atrocities of war, similar to that of the World War 1 which had inspired the Comrades Marathon’s humble beginnings.

Registration opens for professional athletes facing funds crunch due to pandemic

Professional athletes who are experiencing financial hardship due to the coronavirus pandemic will be able to register for a one-off welfare grant from the welfare fund set up by World Athletics and International Athletics Foundation (IAF). The registration window is from May 15 until May 31, an official statement dated May 15, 2020, available on the website of World Athletics said.

It was two weeks ago that the two organizations announced that a US$ 500,000 welfare fund had been created to support professional athletes who have lost a substantial part of their income due to the suspension of international competition this year. A working group was formed to oversee the distribution of the funds and it has now finalized the eligibility criteria and application process.

World Athletics president Sebastian Coe, who chairs the working group, said it had been a challenging and complicated task to define the eligibility criteria to ensure that grants from the fund were delivered to the athletes most in need.

According to the statement, the fund will support athletes who have met the Tokyo Olympic Games entry standard and will provide welfare grants to be used to cover basic living expenses. The level of grant will be dependent on the number of approved applications and up to a maximum of US$4000. It is anticipated that the grants will be distributed directly to athletes from June. Only athletes who have been impacted financially to the extent that they are unable to maintain their basic standard of living should apply. All applicants must meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • Must be qualified (by meeting the entry standard) for selection for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games
  • Must have never had an anti-doping rule violation
  • Must be able to demonstrate a justifiable welfare need through significant loss of income in 2020 compared to 2019.

To help ensure the fund goes to those most in need, the following athletes will not be eligible to apply:

  • Those ranked in the Top 6 in their event in the World Athletics World Rankings
  • Those who have finished in the Top 6 positions of any Gold Label Road Race in 2019
  • Those who have earned more than USD 6,000 in prize money from the Diamond League in 2019

Athletes who, throughout the covid-19 pandemic, continue to receive an annual grant from their government, national olympic committee, member federation or sponsors are not expected to apply unless they can demonstrate a justifiable welfare need as detailed above.

The first phase of the application process is for the IAF to assess eligibility and for athletes to describe the need for grant support and their proposed use of the grant. More detailed financial information will be requested in the second phase prior to confirmation of any grant award, the statement said.

Sports Authority of India to prepare SOP for resuming training post lockdown

The Sports Authority of India (SAI) has formed a committee to prepare a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for phased resumption of training across sporting disciplines at all its centers once the lockdown due to COVID-19 is lifted.

According to a report from the Press Trust of India (PTI), published in the media on May 10, 2020, the six-member panel will be headed by SAI secretary Rohit Bharadwaj and will have as members, CEO Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) Rajesh Rajagopalan, Executive Director (Operations) SS Roy, SS Sarla, Col BK Nayak and Assistant Director TOPS Sachin K. All training had been suspended across SAI centers in view of the on-going pandemic.

The proposed SOP will describe protocols and preventive measures to be observed by all stakeholders, including trainees, coaches, technical and non-technical support staff, NSFs, administrators, mess and hostel staff and visitors, once training resumes.

It will include the guidelines to be followed on entry norms, sanitization and precautions to be taken in common areas and by athletes while travelling to and from the center. A separate committee has been formed to prepare a SOP for swimming, since the sport requires athletes to train in water and may have a different set of health risks to address. The committee for swimming will be headed by Executive Director, TEAMS Division of SAI, Radhica Sreeman, and will include Monal Choksi, secretary general of the Swimming Federation of India, senior coaches and doctors, the PTI report said.

The recommendations of the committees are being made in consultation with respective National Sporting Federations and other stakeholders and will be sent to the Sports Ministry for final approval.

IOC foresees costs of up to $ 800 million as its share in organizing Tokyo Olympics

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) anticipates that it will have to bear costs of up to USD 800 million for its share of responsibilities in organizing the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, its own extended operations and the support for the wider Olympic Movement. This amount will be covered by the IOC itself, including any funding from the Olympic Foundation, an official statement dated May 14, 2020, available on the IOC website said.

This number includes the cost for the organization of the postponed Games of up to USD 650 million for the IOC and an aid package of up to USD 150 million for the Olympic Movement, including the International Federations (IFs), the National Olympic Committees (NOCs) and the IOC-Recognized Organizations, to enable them to continue their sports, their activities and their support to their athletes. Today, the IOC Executive Board (EB) approved this financial plan.

“ At the moment, the IOC is undergoing a deep analysis process to evaluate and assess the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on all of its operations. This is a complex exercise because of the constantly changing factors which have to be considered in the current environment,’’ the statement said.

(The author, Shyam G Menon, is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai.)

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