Athletes have accused Olympic organisers of ‘putting us in danger’ by insisting that the Games will go ahead despite the coronavirus outbreak.
Britain’s Katarina Johnson-Thompson and Greece’s Katerina Stefanidi said athletes felt forced to continue training despite the health risks because Olympic chiefs say the Games will still begin on July 24.
World heptathlon champion Johnson-Thompson said the IOC’s advice to ‘continue to prepare for the Olympics’ was ‘at odds’ with government warnings to minimise social contact.
One IOC member has already broken ranks to say the body’s stance was ‘insensitive and irresponsible’ and causing ‘anxiety and heartbreak’ to the athletes.
Britain’s Katarina Johnson-Thompson (pictured) said the IOC’s advice to ‘continue to prepare for the Olympics’ was ‘at odds’ with government warnings to minimise social contact
Johnson-Thompson, the world heptathlon champion, criticised the IOC for telling athletes to ‘continue to prepare for the Olympic Games as best they can’
Stefanidi, 30, was scheduled to hand the ceremonial flame from Greece to Japan before the torch relay was scaled down over virus fears.
‘The IOC wants us to keep risking our health, our family’s health and public health to train every day?’ said the athlete, who won the pole vault at Rio 2016.
‘You are putting us in danger right now, today, not in four months.’
She added: ‘It’s unbelievable. What about team sports that have to train together? What about swimming? What about gymnastics that they touch the same objects?
‘There is zero consideration of the risk they are putting us in right now.’
Johnson-Thompson, the world heptathlon champion, criticised the IOC for telling athletes to ‘continue to prepare for the Olympic Games as best they can’.
‘The information of the IOC and the local governments are at odds with one another,’ she said, saying tracks and gyms were closed to protect public health.
‘I feel under pressure to train and keep the same routine which is impossible,’ she wrote on Twitter.
‘It’s difficult [to] approach the season when everything has changed in the lead-up apart from the ultimate deadline,’ she added.
The IOC has become an outlier in recent days by insisting it is ‘fully committed’ to the showpiece despite the virus laying waste to most other sports events.
European football leagues, Euro 2020, the Masters, the French Open and the Formula One season are among the high-profile events to have been postponed.
Greek pole vaulter Katerina Stefanidi (pictured) was scheduled to hand the ceremonial flame from Greece to Japan before the torch relay was scaled down over virus fears
Olympic qualifying tournaments have been cancelled or postponed, with only 57 per cent of athletes booking their places so far.
On Wednesday an Olympic gymnastics qualifier in Tokyo, doubling as a test event, became the latest competition to be cancelled.
The Games received a further blow yesterday when Tokyo 2020’s deputy chief Kozo Tashima tested positive for the virus.
Tashima, who is also the head of Japan’s football association, had recently been on a nine-day business trip to Europe and America.
But after the IOC’s executive board assembled in Lausanne, the body said in a statement that it remained ‘fully committed’ to the Games.
The IOC insisted ‘there is no need for any drastic decisions at this stage’ adding that ‘any speculation at this moment would be counter-productive’.
Kozo Tashima, one of two vice presidents of the Japan Olympic Committee, said he had tested positive for coronavirus
Japanese organisers and politicians are also adamant that the Games will be held, fearing a huge financial loss if they are scrapped.
Hayley Wickenheiser, a Canadian IOC member with four ice hockey gold medals, warned ‘this crisis is bigger than even the Olympics’.
‘From an athlete perspective, I can only imagine and try to empathise with the anxiety and heartbreak athletes are feeling right now,’ she said in a statement.
‘The uncertainty of not knowing where you’re going to train tomorrow as facilities close and qualification events are cancelled all over the world would be terrible if you’ve been training your whole life for this.’
Wickenheiser added: ‘I think the IOC insisting this will move ahead, with such conviction, is insensitive and irresponsible given the state of humanity.’
Middle-distance runner Jess Judd also criticised the IOC advice on training, while fellow British track athlete Guy Learmonth has told The Guardian that the Olympics should be postponed.