Irish Olympic chiefs toe the line for now but will do what is best for 'our' athletes

Canada and Australia have already pulled out of this summer's Olympic Games in Tokyo but their Irish counterparts, while all but accepting that a postponement is inevitable, have refrained from the nuclear option for now.

Irish Olympic chiefs toe the line for now but will do what is best for 'our' athletes

Canada and Australia have already pulled out of this summer's Olympic Games in Tokyo but their Irish counterparts, while all but accepting that a postponement is inevitable, have refrained from the nuclear option for now.

Olympic Federation of Ireland (OFI) chief executive Peter Sherrad told RTÉ's 'Morning Ireland' programme that the summer Games “are likely to be postponed” but preferred to leave any firm decisions on participation to the International Olympic Committee.

That was followed by a statement from the OFI later on Monday which quoted team chef de mission Patricia Heberle as saying that they now need to appraise the thoughts of athletes, coaches, and others “on the premise that Tokyo 2020 will be postponed”.

Whatever the language used, a postponement is now deemed to be inevitable, most likely until some point in 2021 but it is taking those in charge some time to come around to what would have been until now such an unthinkable proposition.

The International Olympic Council (IOC) and the Tokyo organising committee had both resisted calls to even contemplate a postponement for a number of weeks but the mounting numbers of coronavirus patients and deaths worldwide have prompted a rethink.

The IOC announced over the weekend that they would make a decision on when to get the Games underway within another four weeks. Whatever the decision made, however, president Thomas Bach has insisted that cancellation is not an option.

The IOC has requested that each national branch of the organisation put together a dossier of information on a number of issues which will then be compiled and used to make a decision on when exactly to hold this latest Olympiad.

The OFI will now contact all national federations here which are likely to have some sort of part to play in Tokyo and ask them how their elite athletes are faring in terms of their sport's calendar, training conditions, overall mood, and for opinions on halting all training sessions.

Similar questions will be put to the athletes themselves.

“We have heard the latest update from the IOC regarding the Games, and we await in due course further information from them. However, we need to consider what’s right for our athletes, coaches, federations and all involved in supporting the system in Ireland at this time” said OFI president Sarah Keane in a statement.

This does include considering if our potential Olympians can and/or should continue to engage in organised training for the foreseeable future.

“This may go against the grain of what they are used to doing day in day out, however at this time all options must be considered which we will do in conjunction with our Member Federations, athletes, Sport Ireland, and other stakeholders. We can and are providing input into the IOC as the ultimate decision-making body for the 2020 Olympic Games. However, we can make decisions in Ireland for the best of Team Ireland and all involved.”

Boxer Kellie Harrington and walker Brendan Boyce have already called for the Olympics to be postponed given the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the uncertainty over when sport can return to something approaching normal and athletes can train again.

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