GB unlikely to be able to send team if Olympics go ahead this summer – BOA chair

Great Britain are unlikely to be able to send a team to Tokyo should the Olympic Games go ahead as scheduled despite the coronavirus pandemic, the chair of the British Olympic Association has warned.

Hugh Robertson welcomed the International Olympic Committee’s announcement that it is now spending the next four weeks looking at contingency scenarios following the outbreak, which include postponement.

However, he warned that due to the widespread closure of training facilities and the likelihood that the impact of coronavirus in Britain will worsen over the coming weeks, there is almost certainly no way Team GB could compete if the Games were given the green light for this summer.

“I think it is very simple. If the virus continues as predicted by the Government, I don’t think there is any way we can send a team,” he told Sky Sports News.

“And I base that on two things. Firstly, I don’t see any way that the athletes and Team GB could be ready by then.

“Elite training facilities are perfectly understandably and quite correctly closed around the country, so there is no way they could undertake the preparation they need to get ready for a Games.

“Second, there is the appropriateness of holding an Olympic Games at a time like this,” he added.

“We are actually in a process where we are talking to all our sports. We will complete that over the next couple of days. At the end of that we have already said to the IOC that we think their four-week pause is absolutely the right thing to do.

“We can’t see any way that this can go ahead as things are constituted at the moment and I expect we will be joining Canada and Australia shortly.”

The Canadian Olympic and Paralympic committees have already announced they will not compete in Tokyo this summer, while the Australians have told their athletes to prepare for a postponement to the summer of 2021.

The BOA, the British Paralympic Association and funding body UK Sport will hold a conference call with the chief executives and performance directors of the summer Olympic and Paralympic sports on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Boris Johnson's official spokesperson has called on the IOC to act swiftly
Boris Johnson’s official spokesperson has called on the IOC to act swiftly (PA)

Although the British bodies may not go as far as Canada have in saying they will not send a team, there is growing anticipation that they will make a collective call for the Games to be postponed and to advise athletes to prepare on that basis.

Boris Johnson’s official spokesperson has urged the IOC to make a “definitive decision”.

The Prime Minister’s spokesperson said: “Athletes are facing significant uncertainty in the current environment.

“Their health and safety, alongside that of sports fans and officials due to work at the Games must be absolutely paramount.

“We want the International Olympic Committee to make a definitive decision soon to bring clarity to all of those involved.

“The Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston set out yesterday that the IOC should be seriously considering postponing the Games.”

A statement from the Tokyo 2020 organisers on Monday afternoon reiterated that discussions would be finalised in the next four weeks, adding: “Our thoughts are with all those affected by this crisis, and we will continue to prioritise the safety of athletes, spectators and all other Games participants.”

A leading figure on the BOA’s athletes’ commission has described IOC president Thomas Bach as arrogant and stubborn over the organisation’s approach to the coronavirus pandemic.

Callum Skinner, a 2016 Olympic cycling champion, was scathing about Bach in a social media post on Monday morning.

“IOC president Thomas Bach’s stubbornness and arrogance has spectacularly failed in this instance and he has weakened the Olympic movement,” Skinner wrote on Twitter.

“This isn’t the first time he has put his own motives above the athletes and the movement.”

Skinner’s post went on to praise those national Olympic committees and international sports federations which have already expressed opposition to the Games going ahead as scheduled.

GB Taekwondo announced on Monday it had suspended all centralised elite training and was closing the national base in Manchester until further notice.

The Azerbaijan Grand Prix, which had been due to take place on June 7, has been postponed due to the outbreak.

It is the eighth Formula One race so far to be affected by the pandemic.

Former England striker turned broadcaster Gary Lineker tweeted that he is self-isolating after his son George displayed symptoms of the virus.

Lineker Sr wrote: “In self isolation as @GeorgeLineker has symptoms.

“They’re not the regular ones, but complete loss of sense of taste and smell. Odd these have not been pointed out much.

In self isolation as @GeorgeLineker has symptoms. They’re not the regular ones, but complete loss of sense of taste and smell. Odd these have not been pointed out much. Been nearly a week and has spent time at mine. I’ve been vigilant, hand washing/distancing but isolation it is.

— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) March 23, 2020

“Been nearly a week and has spent time at mine. I’ve been vigilant, hand washing/distancing but isolation it is.”

Meanwhile, Australia’s rugby league competition, the NRL, has suspended its season. Matches, played behind closed doors, had continued to take place until Sunday.

Newcastle have put back their scheduled return to training until next month in line with the Premier League’s revised suspension.

The Magpies were initially due to head back to their Darsley Park headquarters on March 30, but have set a new provisional date in April which could yet alter as the club continues to monitor the situation.

In the meantime, the players continue to work on individually-tailored training programmes at home with data being fed automatically to the club’s sports science team, while staff remain in regular touch.

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