A day after officially postponing the Tokyo Olympics, IOC president Thomas Bach invoked comments by President Donald Trump to defend himself from criticism on Wednesday.
Bach spoke to about 400 reporters on a conference call and was quizzed why, despite growing concern from athletes, it took so long to postpone the Tokyo Games. He noted that many governments have imposed social limits only into next month and pointed to Trump’s hope of easing restrictions by mid-April.
“In the last couple of weeks the measures of many governments, they were limited until middle of April, some beginning of May,” the International Olympic Committee president said. “You have maybe seen the latest declarations there in the United States from President Trump about the prospect of middle of April there being able to lift many restrictions.”
Bach and the IOC faced mounting criticism last week from athletes, including Olympic gold medallists, for continuing to publicly support holding the Tokyo Games as scheduled from July 24-Aug. 9. The Canadian Olympic committee said before the decision it would not send a team to Tokyo in 2020.
WATCH | Canadian athletes react to postponement of 2020 Games:
Canada was the first country to say it would not go to an Olympics in July, but Bach downplayed the impact that had on the IOC’s decision.
“There were calls between our athletes’ commission and many athletes’ representatives around the world and then finally in all this consultation last week, we had a telephone conference with all the national Olympic committees, with all the international federations,” Bach said.
“At the end of this conference, we had a one-by-one vote for each international federation whether they agree with the strategy proposed by the IOC executive board and we had this one-by-one vote, unanimous support, including from the Canadian Olympic Committee. “
Bach also made it clear that the choice to participate this summer should have been left to the individual athletes.
“It is the right of every athlete to decide — if qualified — he or she wants to participate in the Olympic Games and I do not think that such a decision can be taken by a majority vote by anybody,” he said.
“There we have to respect the rights of the athlete, if the athlete decides, this is his good right.”
IOC was faced with mounting pressure
Even Trump said on March 12 at the White House that the Olympics should be postponed for a year.
The IOC board’s eventual decision on Tuesday, with Japanese government agreement, to delay until 2021 came a day after the World Health Organization said the coronavirus pandemic is accelerating.
Bach was also asked by a reporter from his native Germany if he had thought of resigning because of the athletes’ criticism.
“No,” he replied.
WATCH | Rob Pizzo looks at past Olympic Games that were cancelled or boycotted:
The postponement calls for the Tokyo Games to take place no later than the summer 2021, and Bach was asked about options if the pandemic continued into next year.
“We want, and we will, organize the games only in a safe environment,” he said.
Although an exact one-year postponement to July 23-Aug. 8 is possible, the Tokyo Games don’t have to open in July.
“All the options are on the table,” Bach said, adding that a task force of IOC and Japanese officials named “Here We Go” is looking at new dates.
“This task force can consider the broader picture. This is not just restricted to the summer months,” Bach said.
WATCH | Postponement could hinder career for some athletes:
The IOC president called for compromise on all sides as the biggest sports event of 2020 now lands in the already congested calendar of 2021. Both track and swimming have their world championships scheduled for next year in July and August.
“This postponed Olympic Game will need sacrifices,” Bach said.
One issue for Tokyo organizers is retaining control of the village set to house most of the 11,000 athletes. The sprawling site on Tokyo Bay of more than 5,600 apartments is to be sold off after the Olympics. About 25% have reportedly been sold, with some costing more than $ 1 million.
“It is one of the many thousands of questions this task force will have to address,” Bach said.
One potential problem looks easily resolved. Sponsors whose IOC deals expire this year will continue through the rescheduled games, which will still be called the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. They include Dow, General Electric and P&G.
“We see their full support for this,” Bach said. “For me, it’s a logical consequence that the sponsors … keep their rights even if the games are organized in ’21.”
IOC president Thomas Bach has agreed “100 per cent” to a proposal to postpone the Tokyo Olympics for about one year until 2021 because of the coronavirus outbreak, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tuesday. Abe said after his telephone talks with Bach that he requested a postponement, “taking into consideration the current circumstances” and to secure an environment in which athletes can perform at their best and crowds can be safe and secure. He added that he hoped to reschedule the Olympics as a proof of human victory over the coronavirus pandemic. An official announcement from the IOC was expected soon. Abe held telephone talks with Bach after the IOC said it would make a decision on the Tokyo Games over the next four weeks. Abe said he expects the pandemic to be over by next year and the Olympics can be held by the summer of 2021 at the latest. More to come
IOC president Thomas Bach has agreed “100 per cent” to a proposal to postpone the Tokyo Olympics for about one year until 2021 because of the coronavirus outbreak, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tuesday.
Abe said after his telephone talks with Bach that he requested a postponement, “taking into consideration the current circumstances” and to secure an environment in which athletes can perform at their best and crowds can be safe and secure.
He added that he hoped to reschedule the Olympics as a proof of human victory over the coronavirus pandemic.
An official announcement from the IOC was expected soon.
Abe held telephone talks with Bach after the IOC said it would make a decision on the Tokyo Games over the next four weeks.
Abe said he expects the pandemic to be over by next year and the Olympics can be held by the summer of 2021 at the latest.
More to come
Lolo Jones is 37 — angling for a comeback to the track and well aware that she’s running out of time.
These days, though, earning a spot in the Tokyo Olympics is nowhere close to her No. 1 priority.
The hurdler-turned-bobsledder-turned celebrity, who remains one of the most recognizable and followed Olympic athletes in the United States, is imploring the IOC to send a different message from the one it has thus far about the coronavirus crisis. It has yet to postpone the games, set to start July 24, and by not doing that, Jones believes it is subtly — or not so subtly — telling athletes that they need to be ready, just in case.
“It’s tearing athletes apart,” Jones said Saturday in an interview with The Associated Press. “We want to be like everyone else. We want to be healthy, responsible citizens. But we’re also afraid the IOC is going to say, in a month, that the games are on, and, what, hopefully you’re going to still be in shape?”
Some could be. Even more probably won’t. Such is the state of sports across the globe, where different restrictions exist in virtually every country, and in every state in the U.S. Jones has access to a track near her home in Louisiana, but has been heeding the warnings of health officials and government, opting to shut things down.
“I fear contaminating my coach,” Jones said. “And I fear that we’re not doing our due diligence, as athletes, to send the message: We need to be sticking in our house, self-quarantining. We’ve got bigger things to worry about right now” than training.
Before shifting her focus to bobsled, which allowed her to become one of the rare athletes to compete in both the Summer and Winter Games, Jones was a breakout star in the buildup to the Beijing Olympics in 2008. She caught her shoe on the second-to-last hurdle in the 100-meter finals and finished seventh — and in shock — in a race won by teammate Dawn Harper.
Four years later, Jones came into Olympic trials out of the top three in the rankings, not expected to make the team. She finished third at trials and made it back to the games.
It’s those lessons — there’s a reason they run the races — that also feeds into her desire to see Tokyo postponed. With each day that passes, there’s an increasingly minute chance of a fair Olympic trials. USA Track and Field has long prided itself on taking the top three finishers in each event to the Olympics, regardless of their world ranking or past results.
“In 2012, I was losing every race and went to Olympic trials with one of the slowest times and ended up making the team,” she said. “In 2008, I was winning every race and went to the Olympics and lost the gold medal to someone who got third at trials. There are too many talented athletes to do it politically, or to pick teams based on last year. You cannot do it.”
She took heart in the letter USATF sent to the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee on Friday, pressing for a delay.
“Our goal remains to achieve athletic excellence during the Olympic Games, but not at the expense of the safety and well-being of our athletes,” CEO Max Siegel wrote in the letter.
Which is Jones’ point, too.
She said she understands why the outcry from athletes, though growing, isn’t as huge as it could be. There are thousands of athletes across the globe who see this as their first, or last, or best, chance at Olympic glory — and who want to be given every opportunity to compete.
But Jones thinks it’s best to wait until 2021, or 2022, or whenever it’s safe again. And if she’s willing to wait at age 37, maybe others will be, too.
“It’s hard, because obviously, these are dreams we’ve been fighting our whole lives for,” Jones said. “(Olympians) do it out of pure passion. They’re the most devoted athletes in the world and we’re trying to stay motivated and push through. But there’s a human element to this. Seeing this virus kill, and destroy so many cities, it’s hard to keep going on like nothing’s wrong out there.”
China said Monday it may postpone its annual congress in March, its biggest political meeting of the year, as the military dispatched hundreds more medical workers and extra supplies to the city hit hardest by a virus outbreak that began two months ago.
The standing committee for the National People’s Congress said it believes it is necessary to postpone the gathering to give top priority to people’s lives, safety and health, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
It noted that one-third of the 3,000 delegates are provincial- and municipal-level cadres with important leadership roles working on the front line of the battle against the epidemic.
The standing committee said it would meet on Feb. 24 to further deliberate on a postponement. The meeting is due to start on March 5.
2048 new cases
Health authorities reported 2,048 new cases of the virus and 105 more deaths. Another 10,844 people have recovered from COVID-19, a disease caused by the new coronavirus, and have been discharged from hospitals, according to Monday’s figures. The death toll is 1,770.
With fears of the virus spreading further, Chinese and residents of nearby countries and territories have begun hoarding supplies of everything from masks and other personal protective gear to instant noodles, cooking oil and toilet paper.
In Hong Kong, local media reported that police had arrested two men and were seeking three others who allegedly stole a load of 60 packs of toilet paper at knifepoint early Monday morning. Supplies of the commodity have become extremely scarce, with often only low-quality imports still available. Police were expected to discuss the matter later.
Another 1,200 doctors and nurses from China’s military began arriving in Wuhan on Monday morning, the latest contingent sent to help shore up the city’s overwhelmed health-care system. The city has rapidly built two prefabricated hospitals and converted gymnasiums and other spaces into wards for those showing milder symptoms, but residents still say they are being wait-listed for beds and even ambulance rides.
Wuhan has accounted for the vast majority of mainland China’s 70,548 cases. Some 60 million people in that area and other parts of China are under lockdown in a bid to prevent the virus from spreading further.
Some cases lack obvious connection to China
Public transportation, trains and air travel have been halted in Wuhan since Jan. 23, and a ban on all vehicle travel in the city was expanded to all of surrounding Hubei province in an additional containment measure. Vehicles involved in epidemic prevention and transporting daily necessities were exempt.
New cases in other countries are raising more concern about containment of the virus. Though only a few hundred cases have been confirmed outside China, some recent cases lacked obvious connections to China.
Taiwan on Sunday reported its first death from COVID-19, the fifth fatality outside of mainland China. Taiwan’s Central News Agency, citing health minister Chen Shih-chung, said the man who died was in his 60s and had not travelled overseas recently and had no known contact with virus patients.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe convened an experts meeting to discuss containment measures in his country, where more than a dozen cases have emerged in the past few days without any obvious link to China.
“The situation surrounding this virus is changing by the minute,” Abe said.
Japanese Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said the country was “entering into a phase that is different from before,” requiring new steps to stop the spread of the virus.
Japan has 518 confirmed cases, including 454 from a quarantined cruise ship, and one death from the virus. Japan has the highest number of cases among about two dozen countries outside of China where the illness has spread.
Cruise ship airlift
Hundreds of Americans from the cruise ship took charter flights home, and Canada, Australia, Hong Kong and Italy were planning similar flights.
On Saturday, the Canadian government said it had chartered a plane to bring home many of the 255 Canadians aboard Diamond Princess, off Yokohama, Japan, where some 3,500 passengers have been stuck for 10 days amid an outbreak of the novel coronavirus. So far, 454 people have been infected, including at least 15 from Canada, three of whom have been hospitalized.
On Saturday, the Canadian government said it was sending a chartered plane to repatriate the Canadian passengers who are not showing symptoms.
Those who are transported back to Canada will be placed under quarantine for 14 days. There are also 330 Hong Kong residents and 35 Italians, including crew members, on board the ship or undergoing treatment in Japanese hospitals.
Passenger Trudy Clement, of Port Dover, Ont., told CBC News Monday that she and her husband are still waiting for results from a throat swab they had taken two days ago to determine if they’ve contracted the virus.
“It’s bad enough having to be here for two weeks but not knowing anything, it’s extremely stressful,” she said.
If she does test positive for the virus, she’ll be removed from the ship and taken to hospital in Japan.
If not, the passengers will be tested for any symptoms when they disembark, then again when they arrive in Trenton, Ont. Then they’ll face another two-week quarantine in Cornwall.
The quarantine in Canada will be good for the peace of mind of friends, family and the community, she said.
She said all the passengers she’s been able to talk to on board agree that Canadian aid did not come quickly enough.
“If this had of been started earlier, it would have ended earlier,” she said.
WATCH | Trudy Clement describe the wait for news aboard the Diamond Princess:
The 300 or so Americans flying on U.S.-government chartered aircraft back to the U.S. will face another 14-day quarantine at Travis Air Force Base in California and Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. The U.S. Embassy said the departure was offered because people on the ship were at a high risk of exposure to the virus.
The State Department said 14 of the evacuees were confirmed to have the virus but were allowed to board their flight because they did not have symptoms. They were isolated from other passengers on the flight, it said.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said a Qantas flight was being arranged to evacuate Australian passengers, who would be quarantined at a facility near Darwin upon arrival on Wednesday. The flight will return some New Zealand evacuees to their home country as well, he said.
The latest updates follow the release in China’s official media of a recent speech by President Xi Jinping in which he indicated for the first time that he had led the response to the outbreak from early in the crisis. While the reports were an apparent attempt to demonstrate the Communist Party leadership acted decisively from the start, it also opened Xi up to criticism over why the public was not alerted sooner.
In his speech, Xi said he gave instructions on fighting the virus on Jan. 7 and ordered the shutdown of the most-affected cities. The disclosure of his speech indicates top leaders knew about the outbreak’s potential severity at least two weeks before such dangers were made known to the public.
The pair will not jet off for their romantic honeymoon right after saying “I do,” Kensington Palace confirmed in a press briefing on Friday.
“The couple will be going on honeymoon, but not straightaway,” Kensington Palace spokesman Jason Knauf said. “They will have their first engagement as a married couple in the week after the wedding.”
When they do get a chance to get away, Meghan and Harry are expected to honeymoon in Namibia — a place where they’ll find plenty of privacy, as it’s one of the least densely populated countries in the world. Travel + Leisure magazine reported last month that the twosome will stay at Namibia’s newest luxury camp, Natural Selection’s Hoanib Valley Camp.
Harry and Meghan have spent time together in Africa before. In the couple’s first joint interview with BBC News after announcing their engagement last November, Harry revealed he and Meghan went camping together in Botswana early in their courtship, solidifying their relationship.
“We met once and then twice, back-to-back, two dates in London, last July,” Harry said. “I think about three, maybe four weeks later, I managed to persuade her to come join me in Botswana and we camped out with each other under the stars. We spent five days out there, which was absolutely fantastic. Then we were really by ourselves, which was crucial to me to make sure we had a chance to get to know each other.”
See more on the couple in the video below, and keep up with all of ET’s coverage of the royal wedding as we count down to May 19.