While sports leagues across the globe have shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, Olympic officials have refused to consider postponing the Summer Games, which are scheduled to start in late July in Tokyo, Japan.
The International Olympic Committee held a conference call with athletes to brief them on the health crisis and try to assure them the Olympics will go on as scheduled. The call left athletes confused and angry because they felt like the IOC is not taking the pandemic seriously.
“The message was not, ‘Protect yourselves and protect your community,’ it was, ‘Find a way to train,’” Han Xiao, a table tennis player and an athlete representative from the United States, told the New York Times. “Regardless of their intentions, their first priority is not the public health aspect of it. For me, it’s like, ‘Is that consistent with your values? Is that how you want to be perceived as a member of global society?’”
Officials reportedly gave vague and unconvincing answers to questions on a variety of topics, including safety procedures, alternative plans for the Olympics, and training guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Seyi Smith, the chairman of the Canadian Olympic Athletes’ Commission, told the paper that he was shocked when somebody on the call tried to downplay the seriousness of the virus.
“It would have been great if they came on and said, ‘This is the biggest pandemic of our time, and we’re going to use our funds and influence to ensure that every country understands the importance of self-isolation, and while the Games can still happen, our No. 1 priority is the safety of the Olympic athletes and their families, alike,’” Smith said. “I’m trying to be fair and give people the benefit of the doubt, but that was not explicitly stated.”
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