The Tokyo Olympics will be cancelled if the coronavirus makes hosting the event in its revised 2021 date unsafe.

That is the stark warning from International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach, who sees no viable option to further delay the Games.

Local organisers have admitted there is no scope to push the Olympics – originally scheduled to begin in July this year – back to 2022.

And Bach acknowledged the fact the Games would either have to be staged next year, or not at all.

"Quite frankly, I have some understanding for this, because you can't forever employ 3,000 or 5,000 people in an Organising Committee," he told the BBC.

"You can't every year change the entire sports schedule worldwide of all the major federations. You can't have the athletes being in uncertainty."

Key stakeholders are having to consider contingency plans for a variety of scenarios should the Tokyo Olympics go ahead, but the IOC is resistant to the idea of them taking place behind closed doors.

"This is not what we want," Bach said. "Because the Olympic spirit is about also uniting the fans and this is what makes the Games so unique that they're in an Olympic Stadium, all the fans from all over the world are together.

"But when it then would come to the decision... I would ask you to give me some more time for consultation with the athletes, with the World Health Organisation, with the Japanese partners."

 

 

 

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) anticipates incurring costs of up to $800million over the postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Games.

It was confirmed in March the Games would be put back to July 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The IOC executive board on Thursday approved a financial plan to deal with the crisis months before the Olympics were due to start.

A mammoth sum of up to $650m will be set aside for the IOC to cover the cost of organising the rescheduled Games.

An aid package of up to $150m for the Olympic movement - including international federations, national Olympic committees and IOC-recognised organisations - has also been approved.

The IOC stated it is "undergoing a deep analysis process to evaluate and assess the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on all of its operations".

IOC president Thomas Bach said: "The Olympic movement is facing an unprecedented challenge.

"The IOC has to organise postponed Olympic Games for the first time ever, and has to help its stakeholders come through this global crisis.

"This new situation will need all our solidarity, creativity, determination and flexibility. We shall all need to make sacrifices and compromises. Extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary measures.

"This situation requires every one of us to do our part, and this applies to all of us, including the IOC. With today's financial plans, we are addressing these needs."

It has been about two months now since we have seen any live sport anywhere. Football, cricket, track and field, basketball, everything has ground to a halt as the world battles this pandemic in pretty much the same way it dealt with the Spanish Flu, just about 100 years ago.

Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) president John Coates believes Tokyo in 2021 could be the greatest Games ever.

Scheduled for this year, the Tokyo Olympics were postponed until 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Coates believes the extra wait for a Games could position Tokyo to be the best Olympics of all-time.

"Because we all must wait longer than the already long wait for an Olympics, the Games of Tokyo will gently but perceptibly echo the sheer joy and relief of the other delayed Olympics of Antwerp in 1920 and London in 1948," he told the AOC annual general meeting on Saturday.

"Itself, begging the question: will Tokyo usurp Sydney as the greatest Games ever? I believe the Tokyo Olympics may ultimately be amongst the greatest Games ever, if not the greatest.

"And putting the parochialism of a proud Sydney boy aside and in the spirit of Citius, Altius, Fortius, I certainly hope Tokyo will be."

Looking further ahead, Queensland is expected to make a bid to host the 2032 Olympics.

Coates believes the Games would be just what the economy in the state needs after the coronavirus pandemic.

"There is already a need for jobs and growth in the Queensland economy arising from the impact of COVID-19," he said.

"Our partner three levels of government recognised a potential 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games as a critical part of the state and nation's economic recovery in the short term, quite apart from all of the long-term health, wellbeing, economic and sporting legacies.

"When they tell us the moment is right to do so, we will resume and elevate dialogue with the IOC [International Olympic Committee]. A decision could be as early as 2022 or 2023.

"The opportunity is clear and exciting."

Wednesday marked the 66th anniversary of Roger Bannister's fabled sub four-minute mile.

Although sporting records are always there to be broken, some best marks will forever hold a special place.

Here, we look at some of the competitors whose defining performances will continue to echo through the ages.

 

ROGER BANNISTER

Helped by two pacemakers, Bannister thrilled crowds at Iffley Road, Oxford by clocking 3:59.4 for his four laps of the cinder track.

The record lasted only 46 days before Australia's John Landy shaved more than a second off Bannister's mark, while Morocco's Hicham El Guerrouj is the current men's mile record holder with 3:43.13. But Bannister's name will always be associated with the distance more than any other.

NADIA COMANECI

Elite stars at the top of their sports will often contend there is no such thing as perfection in competition, although the great Comaneci can always beg to differ.

As a 14-year-old at the 1976 Olympics, the Romanian superstar became the first gymnast to be awarded a perfect 10 for her performance on the uneven bars. She went on to achieve the same mark six more times in becoming the youngest all-around Olympic gold medallist.

BOB BEAMON

Before the long jump final at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, no man had jumped beyond 28 feet. American favourite Beamon broke through that barrier and the 29-foot mark for good measure with a truly remarkable leap.

Beamon's 8.90 metres remained a world record until Mike Powell hit 8.95m during his titanic tussle with Carl Lewis at the 1991 World Championships.

JIM HINES

Another United States track and field star to revel amid the altitude of Mexico City in 1968 was sprinter Hines.

He took gold in the 100m final with a time of 9.95 seconds, making him the first man to dip below 10 seconds without illegal wind assistance.

PELE

Three World Cup wins as the shining star of Brazil's prolonged golden era mean Pele does not need statistics to burnish his considerable legend.

And yet, at the Maracana on November 19, 1969, the 29-year-old Pele slotted home a 78th-minute penalty for Santos against Vasco da Gama for his 1,000th career goal. Even allowing for Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo's phenomenal exploits, it is hard to envisage anyone ever matching the 'milesimo'.

ARSENAL

Arsene Wenger invited widespread derision in 2002 when he suggested it was possible for his Arsenal team to go a whole Premier League campaign unbeaten. The season after, they did just that.

Preston North End had their own "Invincibles" back in 1888-89, although the First Division season was a mere 18 games long in those Victorian times. Formidable Manchester City and Liverpool sides falling short of Arsenal's unbeaten exploits in recent seasons have only underlined the scale of the achievement Wenger masterminded.

BRIAN LARA

West Indies great Lara made the biggest individual score in Test history when he plundered a mammoth 375 versus England in 1994 – a record that stood until October 2003, when Australia opener Matthew Hayden hit a merciless 380 at Zimbabwe's expense.

Back at St John's against the same opponent as in his initial exploits, Lara took the record back into his ownership a mere 185 days after Hayden's heroics, bringing up 400 not out for the first quadruple century in cricket's longest format.

AL GEIBERGER

Golf's modern era is increasingly littered with players hitting hot streaks and low scores but going below 60 for a round still holds considerable allure.

It was a different time in 1977 when Geiberger became the first player to shoot 59 on the PGA Tour, illuminating the second round of the Memphis Classic at Colonial Country Club. No one managed the feat again on a major tour for 14 years.

The World Aquatics Championships have been moved from 2021 to 2022 in order to avoid a clash with the rescheduled Olympic Games.

Tokyo 2020 was pushed back by 12 months because of the coronavirus pandemic and will now take place from July 23 until August 8, 2021.

That coincided with the planned dates for the World Aquatics Championships, which will now be held from May 13-19, 2022 in Fukuoka.

International Swimming Federation (FINA) president Julio Maglione said: "After liaising with the relevant stakeholders and receiving feedback from them, we have no doubt that the decision taken will provide the best possible conditions for all participants at the Championships.

"We look forward to witnessing the world's best aquatic athletes from around the world competing in the city of Fukuoka in 2022.

"At a time of unprecedented uncertainty, FINA hopes the announcement of these dates will allow for some clarity in planning for all concerned."

In track and field, breaking a world record is special. Breaking a world record at the Olympic Games is extra special.

World Athletics has launched a $500,000 fund alongside the International Athletics Foundation (IAF) to help athletes affected financially by the coronavirus pandemic.

The world of sport has been decimated by the outbreak of COVID-19, which has seen the Olympic Games in Tokyo postponed by a year until 2021.

That had a knock-on effect with the World Athletics Championships, originally scheduled for 2021 in Oregon, pushed back by 12 months, while the 2020 European Championships have been cancelled.

A World Athletics statement said the fund will be used to help athletes who have lost the majority of their income from the suspension of international competition.

Resources from the 2020 and 2021 budgets of the IAF, of which Prince Albert II of Monaco is honorary president, will be allocated to help athletes. 

World Athletics president and IAF chair Sebastian Coe will front "an expert multi-regional working group to assess the applications for assistance, which will be submitted through World Athletics' six Area Associations".

Olympic champion and 1500 metres world record-holder Hicham El Guerrouj and Olympic pole vault champion Katerina Stefanidi are among the members of the working group, which will convene in the coming week for talks over how to award and distribute grants to individual athletes and to assess means of raising additional monies for the fund.

"I would especially like to thank Hicham for bringing this idea to us, and Prince Albert for his strong support of this project," Coe said. 

"I am in constant contact with athletes around the world and I know that many are experiencing financial hardship as a consequence of the shutdown of most international sports competition in the last two months. 

"Our professional athletes rely on prize money as part of their income and we're mindful that our competition season, on both the track and road, is being severely impacted by the pandemic. 

"We are hopeful that we will be able to stage at least some competition later this year, but in the meantime we will also endeavour, through this fund and additional monies we intend to seek through the friends of our sport, to help as many athletes as possible."

El Guerrouj added: "The pandemic is causing economic pain to people from all parts of society, including athletes, and this is a time when we must come together as a global community to help each other. 

"I am delighted that Seb and World Athletics reacted so positively to my suggestion that we create a fund for athletes, and have made it happen with the support of the International Athletics Foundation. 

"The suspension of competition has had a huge impact on many professional athletes because they can't earn prize money so I'm really pleased that we have found a way to assist them."

Prince Albert II said he hopes the initiative can help athletes continue preparations for next year's Games.

"I created more than 35 years ago the International Athletics Foundation with the late Primo Nebiolo to encourage and promote athletics and grant financial assistance to athletics federations and the most deserving athletes," he said. 

"Since its inception the Foundation has distributed for these purposes more than $30million. I am delighted that we can put our resources behind this initiative so we can make a difference to the lives of athletes who are suffering financially at this time. 

"We hope that this support will help those athletes preparing for international competition, including next year's Olympic Games, to sustain their training, support their families and that this will relieve them of some stress in these uncertain times."

The Olympic Games in Tokyo will be scrapped rather than postponed again if they cannot be held in 2021, according to event president Yoshiro Mori.

The Games were pushed back from July to next year due to the coronavirus pandemic following weeks of uncertainty as the IOC considered the best course of action.

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 continue to rise globally despite some of the hardest-hit countries having had some success in reducing the rate of transmission and the number of attributable deaths.

However, Tokyo 2020 president Mori says there is no prospect of the Games being delayed further if staging them in 2021 is unfeasible.

"No. In that case, the Olympics will be scrapped," Mori told Japanese publication Nikkan Sports.

The comments came after Yoshitake Yokokura, the president of the Japan Medical Association (JMA), suggested it would be difficult for the Games to go ahead if a vaccine against COVID-19 has not become widely available.

"Unless an effective vaccine is developed I think it will be difficult to hold the Olympics next year," Yokokura told reporters.

"I'm not saying at this point that they shouldn't be held. The outbreak is not only confined to Japan. It's a worldwide issue."

The total number of confirmed cases of coronavirus has passed three million, with just over 13,600 of those in Japan.

Almost 212,000 people to test positive for the virus have died.

It is no secret that Yohan Blake’s work ethic is the stuff of legend.

That ethic helped the 2011 World 100m champion become the fastest man in the world, not named Usain Bolt. His 9.69/19.26 over the 100 and 200m is testament to that fact. In fact, had it not been for the presence of Bolt, Blake might well have been a double Olympic champion in 2012 when his 9.75 and 19.44 saw him win double silver.

However, the past few years have been unkind to the man formerly known as The Beast. Hamstring injuries have slowed Blake to the point where he missed out on winning medals in 2016 in Rio and 2017 at the World Championships in London.

The Tokyo 2020 Games would have been another opportunity for the 30-year-old Blake to re-establish himself as one of the world’s best sprinters. However, with the Games being postponed to the summer of 2021, Blake is leaning once again on that work ethic. While the pandemic rages across the globe, Blake is putting the work he deems essential to get back to being at his best.

“My career in athletics has been a dream come true.  For that, I give thanks every day.  But with injuries things get difficult. Yet, I don't stop, I keep pushing to come back,” Blake said on Instagram on Wednesday under a 90-second video of him executing some excruciating leg exercises under the supervision of his coach Gregory Little.

“With Coronavirus everything is postponed right now I am making the most of it.  I am using this time to talk with my body and unlock the power of my mind to conquer and overcome what has been holding me back on the track. I am working hard to get back to that dangerous form.”

 

With a personal best of 9.86 in the 100m, Keston Bledman is arguably one of the most-talented sprinters ever to come out of Trinidad and Tobago.  His talent was evident from very early on when he won a bronze medal in the 100m at the World U18 Championships in Marrakech in 2005.

In 1936 Jesse Owens won four gold medals at a single Olympics. That has been equalled on the track but has never been surpassed. The moment was something track & Field would never forget.

The Olympics were to be held in Berlin, Germany in 1936 and while the World was not to know this just yet, but a second World War would give the event added significance.

Owen’s achievement, on the back of what was to come in the world of men and war, was important. The achievement was special, the where, when and why of it cannot be overstated, however, I would like to focus on one of those gold medals, more specifically, the long jump.

Owens would win the 100, 200, 4x100-metre relay, and the long jump. The last of these has a fantastic story and makes for an absolutely brilliant moment in time.

The American was an unknown quantity to the World, though he did achieve World record-runs in 1935 during his final year on the collegiate circuit.

At the Olympics a year later, the sprinter made his first gold medal look easy.

He would run away with the 100-metre dash, equaling the world record and winning by a tenth of a second.

Now that he was no longer an unknown quantity at the ’36 Olympics, Owens was in for a challenge.

The story goes, the officials would not allow Owens to win a second gold medal, especially since Adolf Hitler, the charismatic German leader, was intent on showing the world that his country was, again, a force to reckon with and Luz Long, a countryman, was a serious challenger in the event.

The story goes on to suggest that Owens was deliberately called for foul jumps on his first two attempts in the final, but that Long suggest the American jump from further back, making it impossible for there to be a discrepancy.

Even with the disadvantage and only one clean jump, Owens still managed 8.06 metres, just three and a quarter inches outside of his World Record.

Long was beaten, but the moment to remember still hadn’t come yet.

That moment would come immediately after the medal ceremony for the long jump where Long and Owens would celebrate their achievements by walking arm in arm around the stadium.

The symbol was powerful and that, even more than a black man dispelling the myth that there was a superior Aryan race in existence, every man should be respected.

Even in the midst of differing opinions on politics and what have you, people could find common ground. That common ground, on this particular occasion, was sport.

For that reason, while Owens’ achievement during those Olympics was remarkable, there was another hero who should be celebrated. Long’s gestures, during the event and at the medal ceremony, should be remembered for the great sporting moment it was.

Hitler would go on to lose World War II but the first battle he lost came at those ’36 Olympics right in his backyard.

Novak Djokovic has revealed his pain at failing to land an Olympic gold medal to add to his 17 grand slam titles.

The Serbian would have been hoping to take the top step on the podium in Tokyo this year, yet the coronavirus pandemic means the Games have been delayed by 12 months.

Twice he has reached semi-finals at the Olympics, in Beijing in 2008 and at London 2012, but Djokovic lost to the eventual champion both times, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray ending his hopes.

As top seed at Rio 2016 he was hampered by a minor injury and fell in the first round to Juan Martin del Potro, who reached the final but lost to Murray.

In an Instagram conversation with Murray on Friday, both men considered which match they most regretted losing.

"I think it would be Olympic Games, so maybe the match I played against you in London or maybe Rafa in Beijing in 2008," Djokovic said.

"I would say Olympic Games because for sure I was very fortunate to have the great success in my career and win all four slams and all Masters series.

"I did win bronze in Beijing, but I was really feeling good about myself in '16 in Rio - Del Potro then went on to play with you in the finals."

Looking back on that Del Potro match, Djokovic remembered: "It was a very tough match - two tie-breaks.

"Two days before the match, I was practising and I was feeling great. I lost third round at Wimbledon so I had enough time to get ready.

"I won in Canada and came to Rio full of confidence, I had the best 15 months of my career behind me before Rio."

A minor wrist niggle after practising doubles dealt Djokovic the setback that meant there was a significant factor involved in the Del Potro defeat.

No such injury issues affected the Beijing and London losses, leading Djokovic to tell Murray: "If I had a chance to turn back time and change the outcomes, it would probably be Rio or London with you in '12."

Murray said his own big regret was losing the French Open final to Djokovic in 2016.

As well as beating Djokovic in two slam finals, Murray has lost to his great rival five times in such matches - four times at the Australian Open and once in Paris.

To Djokovic's surprise, it was the French loss that eats away at Murray.

The Scot said: "Just in terms of the way I played on clay, it was the hardest one for me to adapt to, that I think that would have been for me my biggest achievement if I'd managed to win the French.

"Obviously, Australia's been pretty painful thanks to you over the years, but if I could change one I'd take the French Open off you."

April 15 is 'Jackie Robinson Day' in MLB, an annual celebration of baseball's great trailblazer.

In 1947 a 28-year-old Robinson walked out onto Ebbets Field, Brooklyn and became the first black man to play professional baseball in the modern era.

Here we take a look at those who broke down barriers or revolutionised their sport with acts that continue to have lasting impacts.

 

JESSE OWENS

Not only did Owens crush his competition at the 1936 Berlin Olympics in Nazi Germany, he also destroyed Adolf Hitler's Aryan supremacy theory in the process.

Owens, a black American born in Alabama, won gold over 100 and 200 metres, the long jump and the 4 x 100m relay, becoming the darling of the German public and reportedly annoying Hitler along the way.

In 1976, Owens was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom - the highest civilian honour for an American.

JACKIE ROBINSON

When he started at first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers on Opening Day in 1947, Robinson ended 60 years of segregation in his sport.

By 1956, Robinson's final year in the majors, black players made up 6.7 per cent of major league rosters. That number was still only 7.7 per cent in 2019.

Robinson was a six-time All Star, the 1949 National League MVP and a 1955 World Series champion. His number 42 is retired by every MLB franchise.

BILLIE JEAN KING

King was not only an incredibly successful player - one who won 39 grand slam titles across singles, doubles and mixed doubles - she was also a pioneer for women's tennis.

In 1970, frustrated by a disparity in prize money between men and women, King led a group of nine women to form a new competition, which eventually led to the formation of the WTA Tour.

King also beat former men's world number one Bobby Riggs in the Battle of the Sexes in 1973, a match that was watched by 90 million people worldwide and was considered key to gaining greater recognition for women's tennis.

JIMMY HILL

Players paid £100,000s every week owe a debt of gratitude to Hill, the former chairman of the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA).

Back in the 1950s, players in England were only allowed to earn a maximum of £20 a week due to a Football League salary cap that Hill, in his role with the PFA, successfully campaigned to scrap in 1961.

Later that year Hill's Fulham team-mate Johnny Haynes became the country's first £100-a-week player. Today, Lionel Messi has a wage in excess of €600,000 per week.

DICK FOSBURY

The creators of the Cruyff Turn and the Dilscoop might have produced feats of skill worthy of bearing their names, but neither man completely redefined the way their entire sport is approached.

Fosbury began experimenting with a new way to perform the high jump during high school and his success with the Fosbury Flop started to be replicated by others.

The American won gold at the 1968 Olympics. Four years later over half of the high jumpers used Fosbury's technique. Today it remains the most popular method to try and clear the bar.

Between 1948 and 1952, Jamaica had, at its disposal, four world-class athletes, who between them had two Olympic gold and three silver medals.

Back then, Jamaica’s population was just about 1.4 million and most of its athletes were trained overseas in the US collegiate system. In fact, all Jamaica’s medallists honed their talents in the US collegiate system, Canada and the United Kingdom.

After Wint, McKenley, Rhoden and Laing had moved on, it would be 22 years before Jamaica won another Olympic medal when Lennox Miller claimed silver in the 100m in Mexico in 1968.

Eight years later, Donald Quarrie won Jamaica’s first gold medal since 1952, 24 years since the country’s incredible 4x400m relay win in Helsinki.

It would be another 20 years before Jamaica won another gold medal.

This time, however, it came from a woman; Deon Hemmings broke the drought with an Olympic record win in the 400m hurdles in Atlanta in 1996.

In between, Merlene Ottey, Juliet Cuthbert and Grace Jackson won individual medals for Jamaica and were the redeeming features at the Olympics for Jamaica’s track and field programme.

During this bygone era, Jamaica produced an abundance of other talented male sprinters like Raymond Stewart (the first Jamaican to break the 10-second barrier), Leroy Reid, Michael Green, Gregory Meghoo, Colin Bradford and Percival Spencer, just to name a few, who for one reason or another, did not live up to national expectation.

It would be 32 years after Quarrie sprinted to 200m glory in Montreal that a youngster called Usain Bolt would drag Jamaica’s men to the forefront with gold medals in the 100m and 200m. He then capped it off with another gold medal in the 4x100m relay. The IOC stripped Jamaica of that medal because of a test failed retroactively by Nesta Carter.

Bolt would dominate with six more gold medals over the next two Olympiads – London and Rio – before retiring in 2017.

During that time, only one other Jamaican male – the supremely talented Omar McLeod - has won an individual Olympic gold medal. During that time, Yohan Blake (two silver medals) and Warren Weir (a bronze medal) were the only other individual Olympic medallists.

That is four men, one more than the number that won individual medals between 1948 and 1952, despite the fact that the population has doubled since then.

One other fact, one that I find quite incredible is that between 2004 and 2016, Jamaica produced five of the fastest men in history – Usain Bolt (9.58/19.19), Yohan Blake (9.69/19.26), Nesta Carter (9.78), Steve Mullings (9.80) and Michael Frater (9.88). That is unprecedented in a country that now has a population of about 2.8 million.

Since 2016, Jamaica’s men have struggled in the sprints. Bolt, Frater and Mullings have moved on and Blake, Carter and Powell are nearing the end of their respective careers.

Based on the trends it could be some time before we see that kind of talent on display again because what people are failing to embrace and accept is that what happened in Jamaica since 2004 was extraordinary.

The emergence of talent was incredible, especially when one considers what also happened on the female side with the likes of Veronica Campbell Brown, Sherone Simpson, Kerron Stewart, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Melaine Walker, Brigette Foster-Hylton and Deloreen Ennis-London.

It was truly a golden era that gave the country much to be proud of. However, the other side of that same coin is that those coming up are under so much pressure to live up to this extraordinary era.

Suddenly, nothing short of gold is good enough and that dynamic is not helped by the fact that Bolt himself has put the next wave under much pressure.

“When I was around I think the motivation was there and we worked hard and the level was high, but now that I have left the sport, I feel like it has dropped,” Bolt told Reuters in 2019.

Frater, who surprised all when he won silver in the 100m at the 2005 World Championships in Helsinki, recently expressed similar thoughts.

“Most of the athletes, they feel like it's a sense of entitlement where they feel they are just going out there and other athletes are going to roll over and let them win, and that's not the case,” Frater said in a recent interview with the Jamaica Observer.

“They weren't hungry enough to go out there and get it. You have to go out and fight for what you want.”

However, while there might be some merit to what Bolt and Frater believe, there could be another reason why many of Jamaica’s athletes are not stepping up in a timely manner to fill the gaping hole left behind by Bolt and company.

I will explore this particular issue in more detail next week.

 

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